Don Nathan | Influence 100

Don Nathan

Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer
UnitedHealth Group


Don Nathan joined UnitedHealth Group as senior vice president, chief communications officer, in May 2007, in the wake of a crisis resulting from claims that then-CEO William McGuire had been backdating stock options. Nathan had impressed providing external counsel to the healthcare giant as a partner at high-profile corporate and financial consultancy Robinson Lerer & Montgomery.
He was asked to become the company’s first CCO by McGuire’s successor, Stephen Hemsley, and has been leading all internal and external communications for the company since then, navigating the debate over healthcare reform during the Obama administration while building a new communications function.
Nathan was formerly a strategic communications consultant with Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, beginning in 1991, and was a partner at the firm for 10 years. Previously, Nathan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, serving as press secretary to Rep. Olympia Snowe (R-WA) and in a number of congressional and campaign capacities.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance
Recent CEO transition at UnitedHealth Group... seamless and quiet at a Fortune 10 company.

What do you love about this industry?
Get to learn a lot about business and the world; get to see (and work with) people at their best and worst.

What most frustrates you about this industry?
The lack of an objective measure of effectiveness. Every measure I've seen has, at its core, a subjective determination. Also: agencies and communicators who confuse output with results.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities?
The challenge and opportunity is figuring out how to apply communications skills and perspectives effectively beyond traditional corporate structure.

How do you relax or change pace when you're not at work?
Distance running, reading.

Can you share a book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
JR by William Gaddis: a vivid reminder about, among many things, how hard it is to get one person to listen to or understand what another is trying to communicate.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
...not working in marketing/communications.