Worldwide Chair and Chief Executive Officer for Burson-Marsteller | Chairman, PBS Board
Don Baer is Worldwide Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the global strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller, which is owned by WPP, the world leader in advertising, marketing and communications services. Don has been a member of Burson-Marsteller’s senior leadership since 2008 and has led major client engagements in every sector and part of the world, especially for top technology, communications and media companies.
Don’s career has spanned leading roles as a media and communications executive for a wide range of business, government and non-profit organizations. He has had extensive strategic, creative and operational experience in corporate and media roles as well as in the U.S. Government and the non-profit sector.
From 1998 to 2007, Don was a leading executive at global media company Discovery Communications. As Senior Executive Vice President for Strategy and Development and an executive committee member, Don was a principal deputy to the CEO, leading worldwide new ventures and acquisitions; marketing, corporate communications, research and public policy, and digital media strategy and operations. He drove significant growth in Discovery’s online offerings, including acquisitions of digital businesses and the launch of its first mobile video services, and he oversaw the Discovery/New York Times Company joint venture in the Discovery Times Channel. As a producer, he was a creative lead of Discovery’s public affairs content, including the 2004 Emmy Award-winning series Decisions That Shook the World, the feature-length documentary With All Deliberate Speed about the Brown vs. Board Education decision, and a documentary series with Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. He was instrumental in bringing to Discovery the legendary ABC News journalist Ted Koppel and led Discovery’s partnership with the American Film Institute to create the annual documentary festival Silverdocs.
From 1994-98, Don was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, as Assistant to the President and White House Director of Strategic Planning and Communications and, before, as Chief Speechwriter/Director of Speechwriting and Research. Don played key roles in the Clinton Presidency, including the historic 1996 re-election, helping drive integrated communications strategy across domestic and foreign policy, and developing major Presidential speeches and policy initiatives. The major speeches he played a significant role in writing included every State of the Union Address from 1995 – 2000, the Second Inaugural Address, the 1996 Democratic Convention Nomination Acceptance Speech and the 1994 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Normandy Invasion.
From 1985-93, Don was a journalist. For seven years, at U.S. News & World Report, he covered politics and the White House and, as an assistant managing editor, oversaw national and international coverage. He also worked at The American Lawyer, has written for publications including The New York Times and POLITICO and was a CBS News on-air analyst. From 2000 - 2015, he was a writer for the annual Kennedy Center Honors TV production, winning two Writers Guild of America awards.
In the 1980s, Don was a media lawyer at New York’s Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, practicing First Amendment law and, on a pro bono basis, working on a major anti-death penalty case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. For the latter work, the New York City Bar Association presented him with its Thurgood Marshall Award in 1997.
Don serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of PBS, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the publicly traded company Meredith Corporation. He also serves on the Boards of The Urban Institute, the News Literacy Project, Project Word, the PR Council, the Better Angels Society, the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship and the Reuters Editorial Advisory Board. Don served on The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Visitors and was inducted into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame.
Don received a B.A. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Phi Beta Kappa), a Master’s in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (Rotary Scholar) and a J.D. from The University of Virginia School of Law. He and his wife, Nancy Bard, have two sons and live in Washington, D.C.
In addition to chairing the PBS Board, Don serves as Chair of the PBS Executive Committee and serves on the Finance, Nominating and Corporate Governance, National Policy Advisory, and Diversity Advisory committees. He also serves on the PBS Foundation Board and as a member of its Endowment Fund Committee.