Karen Hughes serves as Burson-Marsteller’s Worldwide Vice Chair. She is a trusted counselor to corporate, nonprofit and political leaders providing strategic communications, corporate positioning and messaging advice.
Since joining Burson-Marsteller in 2008, she has brought to the business world her unique expertise honed over more than 30 years of public policy, communications and political experience, from helping lead winning presidential campaigns to serving at the highest levels of government.
Hughes reached out on behalf of the United States to audiences across the world as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from 2005-2007. Hughes dramatically reshaped the State Department’s communications efforts, rebuilt an agency demoralized by years of budget cuts, launched a new focus on America’s “diplomacy of deeds” and made public diplomacy central in the development of foreign policy.
From 2001 to 2002, Hughes served as Counselor to the President, a title reflective of her role as strategic advisor to President George W. Bush. Told by the President that he wanted her “in the room whenever a major decision was made,” Hughes worked on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues, and led the White House Offices of Communications, Press Secretary, Media Affairs and Speechwriting. When she left the White House, the New York Times said: “The rule of thumb in any White House is that nobody is indispensable except the president. But Karen Hughes has come as close to that description as any recent presidential aide.” The Associated Press called her “perhaps the most influential woman ever to serve an American president.”
Hughes was President Bush’s Communications Director in 2000, helping lead his successful presidential campaign, and served as a senior communications strategist on his 2004 campaign. She was instrumental in developing and shaping his image as a “compassionate conservative.” She served as Director of Communications in the Texas Governor's office (1995-1999) and directed communications during Governor Bush's successful gubernatorial campaigns in 1994 and 1998.
Hughes was Executive Director of the Texas Republican Party from 1992 until 1994, and served as a consultant and frequent spokesman for the Party throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. She was the Director of Media Relations for Halcyon Associates, a Dallas-based public relations firm, from 1987 until 1990. She has worked on numerous political, issue and bond campaigns in Dallas and was Texas press coordinator for the Reagan-Bush '84 campaign.
Hughes began her career as a journalist, working as a television reporter for KXAS-TV (NBC affiliate) in Dallas-Fort Worth from 1977 until 1984. She is the author of “Ten Minutes from Normal,” a book about working for President Bush and her decision to leave the White House to return with her family to Texas in 2002. Hughes is a Phi Beta Kappa and received a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Journalism from Southern Methodist University in 1977. She is an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a long-time Sunday School teacher. She is married to attorney Jerry Hughes and has two children, Leigh and Robert.