Vice President, Communications & Marketing
Montclair State University
As chief communications and marketing officer for New Jersey's second-largest university, I lead a team of 21 creative and technical experts who tell Montclair's story across paid, earned, shared and owned channels. I manage the institution-wide advertising and printing budget and provide strategic counsel to the institution's senior leaders. Under my leadership, the team has earned regional and national awards and accomplished many notable successes:
A research-based, inclusive brand refresh that was well received by the campus community
Earned news coverage has more than doubled and continues to grow, year over year
Social media engagement rates regularly exceed national benchmarks for higher education institutions
Montclair magazine received the first design and editorial update in more than a decade
External agency costs have been reduced by "insourcing" work.
An in-house market research capability has been established, and as a result, the marketing office now plays a significant role in academic program development
I serve on the senior leadership team that is charged with directing the institution's COVID-19 response, and I personally oversee all pandemic-related communications.
Founder and Principal Consultant
Joseph A. Brennan PhD - Communications Counsel for Higher Education
I provided consulting services for higher education, non-profits, academic medical centers and professional services firms, including
Program reviews and audits
Leadership support and coaching
Team and organization development
Workplace culture assessments and interventions
Crisis training, planning and counseling
Structuring the marketing and communications function
Culture assessments and interventions
Clients included Washington & Jefferson College, Penn State Health, Communications Counsel Inc., Stamats, Resurrection University, and California College of the Arts.
VP Communications & Marketing | Clinical Professor of Business | Special Assistant to the President
University at Albany - State University of New York 2015-18
As Vice President (2015-18):
Reinvigorated brand and sharpened position; rebuilt messaging map; introduced persona-based storytelling; modernized student recruitment marketing, contributing to largest application pool and biggest freshman class ever; sponsored first major overhaul to website in 10 years; expanded strategic use of social media; unified campus communicators; created digitally-based employee communications program; grew media coverage 77% in year one and 40% in year two.
Co-designed and co-led institutional strategic planning process, and aligned it with brand development project. Conducted brand research and engaged campus constituencies in redevelopment of brand.
Successfully managed communications for a nationally-visible crisis, a residence hall fire and a rape.
As Clinical Professor (2016-18):
Developed and taught MBA course in Services Marketing; supervised student honors thesis; published research papers and professional articles on crisis communications and social media strategy/metrics.
As Special Assistant to the President (2018):
Provided marketing and communications analysis, strategy, counsel and services for targeted high-growth programs, including public health and entrepreneurship. Volunteer advisor to two start-ups.
Vice President, Strategic Communications - University of Iowa, 2013-2015
Planned and led comprehensive multichannel campaign that measurably improved visibility and changed perceptions statewide, which helped to fend off a $60 million state budget cut and contributed to more applications from in-state students, resulting in largest freshman class in history.
Managed communications for complex and sensitive issues including sexual assaults, racial tensions, controversial speech and student-athlete welfare.
Associate Vice President, University Communications - University at Buffalo, 2008-2013
Led advocacy communications program to build public and legislative support for the university, resulting in $100 million in new capital and operating funding. Unified schools and colleges under one brand umbrella; designed and directed rebuilding of institutional web presence. Planned and managed sale of public radio station, netting $4 million and ending $350K annual subsidy.
Executive Director, Communications & Marketing - Ohio University, 2006-2008
Planned and launched first-ever multi-channel brand awareness campaign; redeveloped alumni magazine; worked directly with president to articulate his vision and build support.
Executive Director, Marketing & University Relations - University of the Pacific, 2003-2006
Grew media coverage by 34% in first year; directed communications for campaign that raised $355 million ($200 million goal); built reputation, helping Pacific move up 15 places in U.S. News rankings
Executive Director, Public Relations and Marketing - University of Toledo, 2000-2003
Rebranded the university; redeveloped admissions marketing to reverse 10-year decline in enrollment; created employee communication program that rebuilt trust after a president was fired.
Public Relations Director - Delgado Community College, 1995-2000
Consolidated all comms & marketing efforts and spending; won national award for “best PR campaign.”
Manager, Research Support Services & Public Communications - NYS Research Institute on Addictions, 1992-1995
Directed media relations, government relations, provider/clinician relations, external publications and web site for nationally-recognized JCAHO-accredited medical research and treatment center with staff of more than 200.
Placed stories and scientific experts in national media, including The New York Times and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Coordinator, Conferences & Lifelong Learning - Niagara University, 1990-1992
Developed and marketed non-credit offerings. Supervised staff and managed budget.
Revised offerings and enhanced marketing, resulting in net income growth of 30%.
BA - English and Psychology - Wayne State University
Summa cum laude graduate. Phi Beta Kappa and Psy Chi honor societies.
MBA - Marketing - University of the Pacific
Graduated with 4.0 GPA. Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.
MA, PHD - English - University at Buffalo
Teaching assistant. Presidential Fellowship winner. Vice President, graduate student government.
2019-present national volunteer service to PRSA, including College of Fellows selection committee, MBA Initiative committee, and JJ&W Behavioral Research Prize selection committee
2018- present PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Advisory Group (CHEAG)
2017-present PRSA MBA Initiative recruitment committee member
2015-2018 AMA Symposium on the Marketing of Higher Education– conference planning committee member
2002-2017 PRSA Counselors to Higher Education professional interest section executive committee – chairman (2014-15); past chair (2016-17)
2013-15 Association of American Universities Public Affairs Network – executive committee member
2011-13 Marketing Committee, SPCA Serving Erie County
2009-2011 American Diabetes Assn., WNY Chapter, communication chair
2007-08 Athens County (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce - Marketing Committee Member
2005-06 Capital Public Radio (Sacramento) – Board Member
2001-02 Press Club of Toledo – Board Member
2001-03 PRSA (Toledo chapter) – Ethics Officer
2001-03 Sylvania (Ohio) Public Schools Communications Advisory Committee – member
1998-99 American Red Cross (New Orleans) – Board Member, PR Chair, and disaster services volunteer
1997-99 PRSA (New Orleans chapter) – Accreditation Chairman
1990-95 People, Inc. Services to the Developmentally Disabled (Buffalo, NY) – Board Member,
P.R. & Marketing Committee Co-Chair
American Marketing Association
Council for the Advancement and Support of Higher Education
Public Relations Society of America
ACADEMIC HONOR SOCIETIES
Phi Beta Kappa – liberal arts and sciences (Wayne State Univ.)
Phi Theta Kappa – top 10 percent of graduating class (Univ. of the Pacific)
Beta Gamma Sigma – business (Univ. of the Pacific)
Psy Chi – psychology (Wayne State Univ.)
Fellow, Public Relations Society of America (2017)
The College of Fellows is PRSA’s highest distinction, akin to a National Academy; membership is highly selective and limited to fewer than 600 of the Society’s 25,000 members. Lifetime appointment.
A.P.R.: Accredited in Public Relations (1998)
Conferred by the Public Relations Society of America after completion of rigorous written and oral examinations testing competence in all facets of the profession.
FEMA Emergency Management Institute courses
IS-100 Introduction to Incident Command System (Dec. 08)
IS-100.HE Introduction to ICS for Higher Education (Nov. 10)
IS-200 ICS for Single Resources & Initial Action Incidents (Dec. 08)
IS-300 ICS for Expanding Incidents (Feb. 13)
ICS-402 ICS Overview for Executives/Senior Officials (Mar. 16)
IS-700 National Incident Management System: introduction (Jan. 09)
IS-702 NIMS Public Information (Nov. 10)
IS-800.b National Response Framework: An Introduction (May 16)
G-289 Public Information Officer Awareness (June 10)
G-290 Public Information Officer Basic Course I (June 10)
L-363 Multi-hazard Planning for Higher Educ. Institutions (Jan. 11)
Collaborative Institutional Training Institute (CITI) Program
Human Subjects Research: Investigators, Students, Key Personnel & Faculty Advisors – Stage 1: Basic (Mar. 17) - renewed August 2021.
Conflict of Interest mini-course (Marc 17) .