My mom tells the story this way: Daniel J. Edelman, founder and chairman of the Edelman public relations agency, once worked for her high school sweetheart’s company, a little operation her boyfriend co-owned called Sara Lee. At least she thinks it was Sara Lee. In other words she’s pretty sure, but then again, being in her ‘70s, she can’t be too sure of anything.
To be honest, memory is not a family strong suit – hell, most of my relatives still think I’m in the newspaper business, which is obviously impossible seeing as I’m now able to afford shelter, food and clothing.
I left newspapers for the PR business in 1994, though I maintained an opinion column and started a freelance writing career that continues today. Anyway, late that year, I made a presentation to my new bosses about an idea I had to start a “digital public relations” division that would focus on communicating via an upstart medium called the World Wide Web.
They thought I was nuts, but I nevertheless convinced them to create a company web site and develop a package of interactive services. How did this happen? It happened in part, I believe, because I used as justification Edelman’s web site, which at the time was one of the only PR sites around. Edelman is online, I said, so we have to be there, too.
Of course the PR industry as a whole never “got” the web (and still doesn’t), and instead abdicated its communications responsibilities to corporate IT departments and advertising agencies. But I never gave up, and in 1999 I left my agency (now Porter Novelli in Orange County, Calif.) and with a colleague started my own company focused exclusively on new media communications, tools and trends.
We expanded the definition and practice of PR to including marketing and brand communications. We spoke at public events and private corporate seminars around the world about “Web 2.0” and social media, determined not to let professional communicators repeat the mistakes of the ‘90s.
And in almost every seminar, in the section on blogs, there was Richard Edelman’s 6 AM site and Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion, examples to the PR world that there are those in the industry who “get it” and have always gotten it.
Great Leap Forward
This year and in the many years to follow, Edelman will play a much bigger role in my career – as my employer. I have joined the firm as a vice president in the Interactive Solutions division and will work from the Los Angeles office, home to Hollywood, Canter’s Deli and the OPRB (“Original PR Blogger”) Phil Gomes. I’ll be driving in from my home in Orange County, so I should have lots of quality Podcast listening time while I contemplate suicide on the I-5.
This blog will not change. I will continue to focus on journalism, with a special emphasis on the current state and future of newspapers. I will continue my breakneck posting frequency of two or three columns a month. And since I never wrote about clients or my company before, I don’t plan to start now – so please, don’t expect me to comment if my new employer does something in the blogosphere you don’t like.
Thank You, ZNetlady
One more thing: Companies, at their core, are people. For seven years, I have had the honor and privilege of working with Linda Zimmer, who is the smartest, most forward-thinking and innovative communications practitioner I have ever known (read her popular Second Life blog for an example of what I mean.)
She is even more than those things to me – she is also my inspiration. She is why I am able to take this next career leap. Because of Linda, I am not only a better professional, but a better person as well.
Thank you, Linda. And thank you to everyone – clients, colleagues and friends – for your support and encouragement.
Edelman, here I come.