HOUSTON—Dr. Neal Burns has been named special assistant to NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe and acting chief of strategic communications. Burns is currently director of the Center for Brand Research at the University of Texas at Austin.
Burns’ chief responsibility will be to develop agency-wide communications strategies, by assessing NASA’s current capabilities and resources and refocusing them throughout the agency, to better communicate the vision for space exploration for both internal and external audiences.
According to O’Keefe, Burns’ “long-standing involvement with NASA and the combination of theory and practice he represents gives us a jump-start on delivering our communications more effectively.”
Burns’ relationship with NASA dates back to 1959, when he directed studies on aviation safety and survival and tested cockpit designs and astronaut mobility for the Mercury and Apollo astronauts. Throughout the agency’s history, he has provided valuable assistance and counsel on a variety of systems and research projects.
From 1986 to 1997, Burns was senior partner, director of research and account planning at Minneapolis advertising agency, Carmichael Lynch, which provided communications and advertising services to such well-known companies as Harley Davidson, Northwest Airlines and Porsche. Earlier he founded and managed The Burns Group.
The day-to-day communications activities of the agency will be conducted by the assistant administrators for public affairs, legislative affairs and external relations. Burns will coordinate the strategy of these day-to-day activities in his new role.