Michael Willard

Michael Willard

Chairman

Michael Willard has had a varied career as a newsman, political and policy advisor to U.S. Senators, senior public relations and advertising counselor, author, publisher and entrepreneur.

Before becoming a founding partner of The Willard Group, he was managing director and market leader of Burson-Marsteller's operations in Russia and Ukraine, supervising services in public relations, research, governmental relations, special events and advertising.

Willard has worked in Eastern Europe for more than 15 years. In 1998 he purchased the Kyiv office of Burson-Marsteller and formed The Willard Group Companies. In 2001, the company opened a Moscow office and in 2005 an Istanbul office.

Willard launched B-M's first commercial operation in Ukraine in 1996 and in 1997 helped lead the Russian B-M team to a successful transition from government-funded projects to commercial work.

First coming to the former Soviet Union in 1994, Willard led B-M's largest government funded project in the region, the Ukraine Market Reform Education Program.

During this period, Willard provided counsel to the Bosnian government in Sarajevo on issues not resolved in the Dayton Peace Accords, working directly with the Prime Minister. Today Willard serves as a policy advisor to several Central and East European governments.

Prior to joining B-M, Willard was president and owner of Willard & Associates for nearly a decade before selling the advertising/public relations agency to his employees.

Willard was director of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd's Democratic Leader's office when Byrd held that position, also serving in the capacity of communications, foreign affairs and domestic policy advisor for seven years.

Joining Byrd's office as press secretary, Willard quickly became a top advisor, traveling with Byrd to visit world leaders in the senator's capacity as Presidential Emissary for President Jimmy Carter.

As an advisor to Byrd, Willard organized discussions with TV networks that led to the first televised coverage of the U.S. Senate and he produced the first opposition party television response to the Presidentís State of the Union message, a practice that today is common

Additionally, Mr. Willard led various Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Intelligence Committee staff delegations to Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama) in the 1980s, meeting with government officials and opposing party and guerrilla leaders.

Wanting to open a business in West Virginia, Willard first returned to the state as Communications Director for then Gov. John D.Rockefeller IV. Willard served as a political advisor to Rockefeller in his successful bid to win a U.S. Senate seat.

Prior to joining Byrd, Willard was State Manager for United Press International in Kentucky and then West Virginia. Early in his career, Willard was a reporter on various newspapers, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Times. He covered civil rights disturbances throughout the South, and the early lunar missile shots at Cape Canaveral.

Willard first joined Burson-Marsteller in the firm's Washington office, heading the office's media group and participating in the crisis simulation and media training teams.

Willard is the author of six nonfiction works, The Flak: A PR Journey, published in May, 2003; Dancing With the Bear: Crisis Management in Eastern Europe, published April 2000, The Accidental Headline, a media training book published in the summer 2001; The Portfolio Bubble: Surviving Professionally at 60, published in 2005; The Silverback Diaries, published on-line in 2007 and the soon to be released The Optimistic Alien. One of Willard's books, The Flak, was released in 2004 in Russian as PRschik (PR man).

In his spare time, Willard is a painter, having held three one-man exhibitions in noted Kyiv galleries.

A native of Vidalia, Georgia, Willard calls Charleston, West Virginia his home. He is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in advertising and marketing and is a former member of the board of directors of the European Business Association.

Willard is publisher and a columnist for Willard Marketing Monthly, a magazine launched in August, 2009. He is a former publisher of The Ukrainian Observer.
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