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Joseph A. Brennan, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA


I provide provide leadership that helps colleges and universities survive and thrive during changing and challenging times. I craft powerful and distinctive brand narratives, build support for a shared vision and consistent messaging and apply innovative communication methods to engage internal and external audiences. I build teams of skilled creative professionals and support and guide them to achieve measurable results.



Over nearly 30 years in higher education, I’ve progressed rapidly from entry- to executive-level posts, moving up from a coordinator with a staff of two to a vice president with a staff of 23. I’ve been actively sought-after by CEOs who understood my impact and value, resulting in an employment history filled with rapid growth and change. Each stop on my career offered significantly more responsibility and influence. Former employers still use programs I created for them, speak highly of me and recommend me often. My peers have honored my work with election to the PRSA College of Fellows, and twice named me “communicator of the year.” 



As a Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, I've designed and directed marketing and public relations initiatives that have:

  • generated $100 million in new funding, and prevented budget cuts of $60 million

  • produced the largest freshman classes ever for two research universities

  • achieved the 3 biggest pledge drives ever and the best ratings in 20 years for a public radio station

  • helped a fundraising campaign exceed its goal by 78% for a private university

  • increased news coverage by 77% in one year for a public university

  • won national awards for “most improved website” and “best public relations campaign”​

  • designed marketing and branding strategies that helped produce the largest freshman classes in history for three different universities


As a crisis expert, I have counseled presidents, managed communications and served as a spokesman for dozens of critical incidents, including:

  • A fire that destroyed an apartment complex, displacing 250 residents

  • A power outage that took a large section of a campus offline for more than a week

  • Allegations of racially-motivated violence that drew national news coverage and social media attention, including tweets from a U.S. presidential candidate and an NFL player

  • A destructive hurricane in Puerto Rico, where I directed regional communications for the American Red Cross

  • Internal conflicts and external criticisms that threatened the ability of leaders to lead

  • Unexpected deaths, violent crimes, and allegations of wrongdoing by students and employees


As a national thought leader and sought-after speaker, mentor and consultant, I've helped my profession grow, and I've introduced new best practices. My impact includes:

  • Chairing my national professional association’s board, leading my fellow volunteers to grow membership from 400 to 700 and attract record sponsorship dollars

  • Publishing 17 professional and academic articles, producing a documentary film, giving 20+ conference presentations

  • Conducting research on college rankings and emergency alert systems, to give practitioners a solid basis for action

  • Mentoring emerging leaders and equipping them with the skills for success

  • Advocating for a trauma-informed approach to leading people and conducting public relations


View my resume

See my list of publications

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