PR Week’s 2016 40 Under 40: Bill Burton

Bill Burton
MD, SKDKnickerbocker 

Catch a glimpse Bill Burton’s résumé and you will spot major leaders of the Democratic Party, including President Barack Obama.

The spokesman, strategic adviser, and campaign guru has worked as a communications adviser to Rep. Dick Gephardt, Senators John Kerry and Tom Harkin, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and even Al Gore’s presidential campaign.

Tapped as then-Senator Obama’s national press secretary in 2007, the Buffalo, New York, native was one of the first hires of the fledgling, long-shot campaign. Noted by an otherwise combative press as likeable, sharp, and unflinchingly loyal, willing to defend and call out any trash talking of Obama, Burton spent the next several years in service the president in one capacity or another.

After a successful 2008 presidential race, he entered the White House with the president as the deputy press secretary and special assistant, traveling with Obama extensively, briefing reporters from Air Force One and from the podium in the White House briefing room.

When it was re-election time, he cofounded Priorities USA, a super PAC dedicated to returning Obama to the Oval – which it did, after hammering GOP rival Mitt Romney with ads depicting him as a ruthless corporate raider and job killer.

Burton has since lent his talents to the PR agency sector for the last several years, advising a diverse roster of nonprofits, corporations, and politicians looking to navigate Washington, crises and complicated public issues.

He later joined Global Strategy Group as MD and EVP before leaving for SKDKnickerbocker. There, he set about working the agency’s expansion into California, helping the political and public affairs firm pick up high-profile clients through a brand-new Los Angeles office.

  • A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the CAP Action Fund, he continues to inject progressive ideas into the center of national policy debates.
  • He worked as communications director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when the Dems won a majority in the House for the first time in 12 years (2006).
  • Burton is a regular on the cable news commentator circuit, including MSNBC, CNN, Fox, Bloomberg, and in media titles such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.