Bill Nielsen, 2017 Legacy Honoree


Bill Nielsen, a public relations and corporate communications authority, is currently a consultant to management of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

He retired as corporate vice president of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in December 2004, after serving l7 years with the company, where he was the chief public relations and corporate communications officer.

He joined J&J in 1988, following l8 years as a public relations agency consultant with Carl Byoir & Associates and Hill+Knowlton. In addition to executive roles in agency management, he specialized in corporate communications and crisis management in industries such as consumer finance, insurance, defense, biotech and airlines.

Nielsen was elected to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees in January 2011. He also serves as chairman of the Board of Advisors to the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communications at Penn State University.

Nielsen served two terms as president of the Arthur W. Page Society and was inducted into that organization’s Hall of Fame in September 2003. He served on its board of trustees for 17 years and continues as chair of the Society’s Honors Committee.

He also chaired the boards of The Seminar and the Institute for Public Relations and continues as an emeritus director. He received the Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award for lifetime contributions to professional public relations in 2011. He is a member of The Wisemen and the Public Relations Society of America. For 18 years, he served as trustee of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, organizers of Character Counts. Nielsen was also a trustee of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and a board director of the Foundation of Children’s Hospital, National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

In addition to his consulting work, Nielsen is a frequent guest lecturer at public relations and corporate communications graduate programs at universities across the country. He also serves in industry-sponsored PR leadership training programs. He was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame in December 2014.

Continuing his work in healthcare communications, he is a pro-bono advisor to the TEDMED conferences.

Following graduation from Oregon State University, Nielsen served in the U.S. Air Force as a public information officer in Washington, D.C., and Japan. He and his wife, Doris, reside in Maryland where they are both active in community affairs.

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