Don Baer is a member of ITIF’s board.
He is worldwide chair and CEO of the global strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller, a WPP company. He is also chair of the research firm Penn, Schoen and Berland. Baer has been part of Burson-Marsteller’s senior leadership since 2008 and has led major client engagements in every sector and part of the world.
Baer’s career has spanned leading roles as a media and communications executive for important business, government, and nonprofit organizations. He has had extensive strategic, creative, and operating experience in corporate and media roles and at the highest levels of the U.S. government and politics.
From 1998 to 2007, Baer was a top executive at global media company Discovery Communications. As senior executive vice president for strategy and development and an executive committee member, he was a deputy to the worldwide CEO, leading new ventures and acquisitions, marketing, corporate communications, research, public policy, and digital media strategy and operations. He drove significant growth in Discovery’s online offerings, including digital acquisitions and the launch of its first mobile video services. He helped found 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. Baer led Discovery’s partnership with the American Film Institute to create America’s largest documentary festival, Silverdocs.
From 1994 to 1998, Baer served President Bill Clinton as a senior White House adviser. As assistant to the president and White House director of strategic planning and communications, and before that as chief speechwriter and director of speechwriting and research, Baer helped lead the historic 1996 re-election campaign, drove integrated communications strategies across domestic and foreign policy, and developed many major presidential speeches and policy initiatives.
From 1985 to 1993, Baer was a journalist. For seven years, at U.S. News & World Report, he covered politics and the White House and, later, 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 1998 to 1999. For 15 years starting in 2000, he was a writer for the annual Kennedy Center Honors TV production, winning two Writers Guild of America awards.
In the 1980s, Baer was a media lawyer at New York’s Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. Baer is chair of the Board of Directors of PBS, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Meredith Corporation. He also serves on the Boards of The Urban Institute, the News Literacy Project, Project Word, the PR Council, the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship, the Reuters Editorial Advisory Board, and on the Advisory Council of The First Year: POTUS 2017 Project at The University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs. Baer served on The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Visitors and was inducted into the North Carolina Halls of Fame in Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations.
Baer 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 and his wife, Nancy Bard, have two sons and live in Washington, DC.