The PR Week 6.12.18: Richard Edelman

Iconic PR agency leader Richard Edelman joined PRWeek to talk family succession, Martin Sorrell, PR at Cannes, and Act With Certainty.



NEW YORK: The CEO of the biggest PR agency in the industry dropped by for a special edition of PRWeek's podcast to reflect on a new go-to-market positioning for his firm after 40 years in the business.

In the course of a wide-ranging discussion, Edelman said:

  • He wants at least one of his daughters to succeed him, as long as they are the most qualified - otherwise it will be a non-family member.
  • After 40 years in PR, he's happy Edelman stayed private - as CEO he’s grown revenues almost tenfold, from $90m to nearly $900m.
  • His biggest change in 40 years is Edelman and Weber Shandwick taking over as the biggest firms from Burson-Marsteller, H+K, and Carl Byoir.
  • Martin Sorrell is an irrepressible character, a brilliant operator, who has proven it by building a $21 billion business – he will be back.
  • Cannes: Too many PR Lions are won by ad agencies, but PR is going to do better this year. No PR people want to walk out of the Palais muttering again – we have to win.
  • 2018 will be an "OK year" for our industry – we have to play for a 5- to 10-year time horizon.
  • "The power of earned media is only enhanced by shared media – you can’t buy influence."
  • Evolution of PR, digital and creative is a massive cultural transformation for our industry.
  • "I don’t believe all the bits of a holding company come to the table with equal status – it’s still advertising- or media buying-led."
  • There’s no automatic dividend to growth in developing markets.

Edelman's priorities for the next 5 years

  1. Deliver on Act With Certainty
  2. Look at the effect of automation on the world of work and get ahead of the issues
  3. Write a book on trust
  4. Mentor his 3 daughters

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