Chief of staff to CEO, UnitedHealth Group

Creating good from bad might be the motto for Don Nathan, who until just last month was SVP and chief comms officer at UnitedHealth Group.

In 2006, Nathan was working at strategic comms firm Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, which was representing UnitedHealth. The company was the focus of a Wall Street Journal story about then-CEO William McGuire backdating stock options. A year later, McGuire left and the company hired a new CEO, who asked Nathan to join the firm, eventually making him its first CCO.

Nathan’s background in crisis and politics helped UnitedHealth as it worked its way through the debates over President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.

Nathan’s tactics? Give the staff basic, concise messaging, use internal tools to ensure employees understood UnitedHealth’s role, and reassure employees about their work so the company could position itself as an experienced provider of care and access.

“Don helped frame that what we wanted to do was offer a constructive contribution to the debate focused on solutions rather than engaging in the tug-of-war,” said EVP Simon Stevens.


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