BEIJING--ICANN has named Hill + Knowlton veteran Duncan Burns as its new global communications head, as the internet NGO seeks to improve stakeholder engagement.

Burns rejoins Sally Costerton, the former Hill + Knowlton EMEA CEO who now serves as senior advisor to the ICANN president on global stakeholder issues. 

Costerton confirmed that she had helped ICANN identify Burns for its VP of communications role, as part of her remit to build the organization's communications function. She told the Holmes Report that ICANN is aiming to "internationalise its engagement and communications."

"Part of that is hiring somebody who really knows how to do that," said Costerton.

Burns arrives at ICANN after 12 years at Hill + Knowlton, most recently as the firm's global energy practice director in Washington, DC.

“He understands both our unique bottom up model and community as well as having the experience to lead the rapid internationalization needed as our new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) program translates to ramped-up demands for qualitative international communications," said Costerton.

Burns succeeds interim comms head Jim Trengrove who has headed the function since September 2012, when previous comms VP Barbara Clay departed ICANN. Trengrove will now shift his focus to the expansion of ICANN’s media platforms.

Before taking on the global energy role in 2011, Burns was interim GM of H+K’s Washington DC office and also served as SVP of the technology practice.

“I am excited to be joining ICANN at such an important time in its history as it enables the internet’s evolution into new languages, markets and beyond," said Burns. "I was part of a team that a couple of years ago worked with ICANN in its efforts to expand awareness of the organization’s new gTLD program. I was impressed by the people I met and the way in which transparency and engagement are the core around which ICANN and its communications efforts are built.”

Burns will be based in ICANN’s Washington DC office. He assumes his new position on 20 May.

His hire comes amid the ICANN Beijing meeting, which is expected to secure the rollout of new gTLDs. The gTLD programme has been criticised for being "economically unsupportable" and for operating without stakeholder consensus. In response, ICANN president and CEO Fadi Chehadé this week launched a public conversation about the organization's future.