Daniel J. Edelman, z”l

My Twitter stream and Facebook news feed lit up this morning with the news that

Daniel Edelman and Jesse Jackson, 2008

Edelman founder Daniel J. Edelman passed away. I find myself far more upset than I should be for someone who worked at Edelman for only 3.5 years and has been gone nearly as long as I worked there.

So I tried to unpack it and figure out why this man’s passing has left me crying at my desk this morning.

In May 2005, I was managing an ice cream parlor in Ravenswood. I’d recently closed on my condo and the week I closed my paycheck bounced twice. It wasn’t the first time that my paycheck had bounced and friends finally had an intervention and convinced me to resign from my job.

I had no plan other than I needed an employer who didn’t make their employees beg for paychecks or let them bounce when the check was finally written. A temp agency placed me at Edelman as an administrative assistant. As I often tell the story, “I was an admin with a blog at a time when blogs were becoming important.”

I went temp to perm as an admin at Edelman in July 2005 and in July 2006, I transferred to the me2revolution with Phil Gomes, Rick Murray, Michael Wiley, Steve Rubel, Ming Yee and two colleagues in Sweden. It was with this small team, under Richard Edelman’s watch, that we worked to develop how public relations could use Web 2.0 in the changing media landscape.

As a part of that team, I traveled the US training colleagues on the basics of what we now call social media. I was able to visit Germany and meet European colleagues. I made connections with our Asian colleagues who came to Chicago for training. I learned the agency ropes at the world’s largest independent PR firm.

One of the things I loved about working at Edelman was the origin story. Everyone in Chicago knew the tale of how Dan had created the modern media tour with the Toni Twins. I never worked with him, but was proud to work for him.

I left Edelman in 2009 to try to do my own thing. I worked with rabbis and rock stars, later going to a start-up and finally rejoining agency life at Olson in 2011. I’m a fan of turning around and looking at sign posts that are only visible in hindsight.

Without Edelman, I have no idea where I would be today, which means that without Dan Edelman, I have no idea where I would be. I can not fathom any life but the one I have today, but I only have it because a temp agency placed me at Edelman and because Edelman was willing to take a chance on an admin who had a blog when blogs were becoming important.

He wasn’t a saint and our industry is far from perfect, but through a long series of events he changed my life and the lives of many more. His memory will certainly be a blessing.

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2 Responses to Daniel J. Edelman, z”l

  1. Leah, this is so beautiful. I feel so lucky I was able to work with you for a short while. I feel similarly and smile when I think of you teaching me about blogs, the “dollar a day” experiment and more. I got a lot from Edelman too and so appreciate everything–mostly the opp to meet people like you!

  2. A beautiful tribute to one whose life was surely a blessing to yours.

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