Director since 2011. Vice Chair since 2013. Don Baer is Worldwide Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller and Chair of the research firm Penn Schoen Berland, both WPP, Inc. companies. Don has been a member of Burson-Marsteller’s global senior management team since 2008, while also leading major engagements for clients in every sector and part of the world, especially for top technology, communications and media companies. In 2011, he became Co-founder/Chair of Palisades Media Ventures, a public affairs and news media development company co-owned with WPP.
Don’s career has spanned leading roles as a media and communications executive for a wide range of important business, government and non-profit organizations. He has had extensive strategic, creative and operational experience at the White House, major global companies and media organizations.
From 1998 to 2007, Don helped lead global media company Discovery Communications. As Senior Executive Vice President for Strategy and Development and an executive committee member, reporting to the CEO, he led worldwide marketing efforts; business development including new ventures and acquisitions; new media strategy/operations, and corporate-level business development, communications, research and public policy. He drove significant growth in Discovery’s online offerings, including acquisitions of digital businesses and the launch of its first mobile video services, and oversaw the Discovery/New York Times Company joint venture in the Discovery Times Channel. As a producer, he supervised Discovery’s public affairs content, including the 2004 Emmy Award-winning series Decisions That Shook the World and a documentary series with Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. Don managed Discovery’s partnership with the American Film Institute to create the documentary festival Silverdocs.
From 1994-98, Don was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton. As an Assistant to the President and White House Director of Strategic Planning and Communications and, before, as Chief Speechwriter/Director of Speechwriting and Research, Don was widely recognized for his key role in the Clinton Presidency, including the historic 1996 re-election. In addition to managing an integrated message strategy across domestic and foreign policy agencies, he led the development of many major Presidential addresses and worked on every State of the Union from 1995 to 2000.
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, was a CBS News on-air analyst and has appeared on many TV news shows. Since 2000, he has helped write 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. He is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and on the Boards of the Urban Institute, the News Literacy Project and digital media business Fora.tv. Don is also a member of the Reuters Editorial Advisory Board. In 2013, he was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism and Communications 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 and a J.D. from The University of Virginia School of Law. He lives with his wife, Nancy Bard, and two sons in Washington, D.C.
He currently serves as Chair of the Finance Committee and General Vice Chair of the Executive Committee. He also serves on the PBS Strategic Planning Advisory Group, and is a former Vice Chair of that Group, the National Policy Advisory Committee and on the Board of the PBS Foundation. He also formerly co-chaired the Corporate Support Advisory Committee.