Tribute to a Friend: Remembering Don Bartholomew

The Ketchum family and the PR world lost a true luminary when Don Bartholomew, SVP, Digital & Social Media Research, based in our Dallas office, passed away on June 1. He had been battling brain cancer since early 2014. He is survived by his wife Paula and son Seth.

Don and I were buddies for probably a dozen years before we started working together, so, while he reported to me as part of the Ketchum Global Research & Analytics team, I mainly thought of him as a friend. Frankly, as an employee, he would often question things I had decided, and as it turned out, he was usually right. The impact he had on our organization will be remembered for years to come – and his influence on the memories of those who had the pleasure to work with him will last a lifetime.

Throughout his career, Don helped shape measurement programs for a huge array of clients. He was well recognized in the communications measurement field with his well-read blog MetricsMan, and he was a member of the Measurement Commission of the Institute for Public Relations, where he was elected to Emeritus status. Don was also elected to the PR News Public Relations Measurement Hall of Fame in April, 2014.

One of his most important contributions to our field was in his role as Vice Chair of Social Media Measurement Group for AMEC, the industry’s top measurement organization. In that capacity, he and Richard Bagnall of Prime Research wrote what has become the industry’s standard for social media measurement. At this year’s AMEC Summit in Stockholm, two days after Don passed away, one of the people he helped teach measurement (Meredith Stevens of NCBA) presented the adaptation of his work to the U.S. beef industry. Poignantly, she said, “we would not be here today if it weren’t for Don’s leadership and good counsel.” During the event, AMEC renamed its prestigious annual Chairman’s Award as the Don Bartholomew Award in honor of Don’s impact on the communication measurement industry.

As a way to pay tribute to this wonderful person and measurement wizard, I thought it would be nice to share some of the great things his Ketchum colleagues had to say about him. We invite all other colleagues and friends to share their thoughts about him in the comments section below.

For those wishing to make donations, Don’s family requests they be made to the American Cancer Society or the Salvation Army.

Jamey Peters, partner, director
Don’s ability to bring the analytical research world together with the digital world was a great asset and go-to source for all of us in Dallas and across the network. His dry sense of humor, passion for Syracuse basketball and willingness to jump in on any opportunity defined him not only as a colleague, but as a friend.

Lindsey Marshall, VP, research
Don brought a very sophisticated capability to KGRA and helped us make sense of a media landscape that was (and is) really confusing. He pioneered two huge global social listening audits for a couple of our clients and helped us figure out how to do that on our own. Don’s presence on the KGRA team made me feel good about the direction we were going. It made me feel safer and smarter just having him on the team because he was a true thought leader. He brought a lot of credibility to our group and helped launched our entire Digital listening business. What I most loved about Don was that he gave us someone else to look up to.

Susan Butenhoff, partner, CEO, director, Global Tech Practice
I only met Don briefly, but it was clear he was a prince of a man.

Erin Salisbury, project manager, Digital Research & Analytics
After being a part of KGRA for just a little over a year, and only getting to meet him in person a few times, Don gave me the chance to join the Ketchum Digital Research & Analytics team he created. I can say with 100 percent certainty that that move completely changed my career path. Thanks to him, I have soared in this environment, and without him, I truly don’t know where I would be. I will be forever grateful to Don for the time he spent teaching me and helping me to become a more confident and qualified digital research and analytics professional.

Sarah Unger, VP, insights and strategic planning
I had the pleasure of knowing Don while I wasn’t yet a part of KGRA. It’s people like Don who made me want to be part of this data-driven family. Don always was a north star for his colleagues — his wisdom and savvy, mixed with his kind way of imparting knowledge to peers, was such a special blend. His legacy is strong, and I know we all will continue to work in a way that will do right by what he established here.