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MEET THE TEAM: Don Hannaford

Global industry experience is typical for the Jeff Winton Associates team. However, one consultant has been around the world and back during his impressive career. Meet Don Hannaford, whose background included domestic public affairs and international marketing roles before conquering communications.

When Don grew up in the small town of Piedmont, California (population 10K), he was certain of one thing: he wanted to see what was beyond the Bay Area. He enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Engineering School, but calculus didn’t agree with him. So, he transferred to the Wharton School in his sophomore year, only to realize that he didn’t much care for business. He ultimately landed in the College of Arts and Sciences, where he earned a dual degree in international relations and classical history. While in college, he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). “I intended to spend my career in olive drab,” Don says. He was slated for a regular Army commission and had been accepted to flight school, but a type 1 diabetes diagnosis his senior year of college curtailed those ambitions.

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Above: Don feeding an elephant at the Phuket, Thailand Elephant Sanctuary.

Don had to rethink his career, a skill he used several times in his life. A job he held in high school helped pave the way. Don had taken a semester off to be part of the traveling staff for the Reagan presidential campaign, following in the footsteps of his dad who had been Governor Reagan’s public affairs director and involved in both presidential campaigns. The experience introduced Don to a U.S. senator who invited Don to be an intern for two summers. When the Army opportunity fell through, Don went to his growing public service network and landed a position with the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretariat for Territorial and International Affairs. 

This allowed him to travel through the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Micronesia) and participate in negotiations for a change in political status for the four governmental entities there that the U.S. administered. From there, he moved into a communications position with the Minerals Management Service, the U.S. government’s offshore oil, gas and strategic minerals program, responsible for the public affairs in West Coast (California) and Alaska regions. 

Don’s career continued to evolve when he moved from government work to political candidate communications for several years, but he left that arena completely to manage international operations for a wholesale marketing and distribution business in Charlotte, North Carolina. Don recalls, “For that job, I spent six months a year traveling extensively in mainland China, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and India supporting the product development team in importing operations.” By that point in his career, Don was married with two children. Being away from home that much prompted another change and a return to D.C. to apply his prior public affairs and public relations experience to a series of agency positions, including ten years as managing director of the Washington, D.C. office of MS&L (now Publicis Group). Since then, he has continued to be a client-focused communications agency pro.

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Left: Don with wife Wendy at James Bond Island, named for being a location in the Bond movie, "The Man with the Golden Gun. 

Right: Proud papa with his kids, Patricia and Thomas.

In his personal life, Don is proud of his two children, Thomas and Patricia. Thomas ignored Don’s advice to avoid P.R. after leaving the U.S. Marine Corps. He is now a regional communications manager for Intel. Patricia is a science geek who inherited the “cogent-writing gene.” She applies both those talents to running Production and R&D for an agricultural grafting company. When traveling with his current wife Wendy Lund, one of their four sets of children and their significant others are usually along for the ride. Wendy also is no stranger to the agency world, serving as chief client officer, Health &Wellness, for WPP and previously leading GCI Health as its CEO.

Another family member is Yogi, a miniature dachshund who is often a “featured guest” on JWA video conferences. It’s one of the joys of working for an all-remote agency. “I’ve told Jeff Winton many times that if I could construct my ideal agency, it would look like JWA,” says Don. “We work with people we like, respect and trust, and there’s no competition among the consultants. And we get to keep learning new things from each other and our clients.”

When not working or traveling, Don has devoted his free time for the last six years “and counting” to writing a book. With his varied life experiences, that book should be a best seller!

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