Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, President of Kutztown University
speaks about working with Communications Counsel...

“Mark’s Crisis Communications Workshop was entertaining, engaging and valuable.  He spent a day a with members of the President’s Cabinet and our Emergency Management Team.  His teaching style is effective, because he includes real-life examples and hands-on training.  He has a wonderful sense of humor.  He really did his research as he knew much about my background and current events at our university that touch on his workshop topic.  Mark’s credentials are impeccable and if you are seeking a highly experienced individual who can deliver the best education on crisis communications in a short-period of time, Mark Weaver is the choice.”


Communications Counsel
Higher Education Consultant
Joseph Brennan, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA

Communications Counsel
Higher Education Consultant
Chuck Marsh

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Joe Brennan is a nationally-recognized leader in communications for colleges and universities. Over a career spanning some 30 years, Joe has served public and private institutions as both a chief public relations and marketing officer and an external consultant.

He has served for nearly two decades on the board of the PRSA Counselors to HIgher Education, the nation’s premier forum for college and university communicators. During his term as chairman, CHE grew from 400 to 700 members, held its two largest conferences, and attracted record levels of sponsorship funding.

An authority on issues management and crisis leadership, Joe has successfully guided institutions through dozens of critical incidents.

Drawing on his political acumen, his knowledge of how public opinion is formed, and his deep familiarity with academic culture, Joe provides strategic insights that enable his clients to navigate highly-charged, risky situations.

Joe established successful issues management programs at two major research universities and has written many crisis communications plans, drills and exercises.

He believes that the work of leading a crisis is distinct from that of managing it. He has written about what presidents and boards must do during crisis, including articles in University Business and Trusteeship magazines. Joe has also been quoted in Campus Safety and CASE Currents, magazines and is a frequent speaker at higher education conferences.

In addition to his consulting practice, Joe teaches college courses in public relations, communications and marketing. He holds a faculty appointment as Clinical Professor in the School of Business at the University at Albany - SUNY.

Joe earned an MBA in Marketing from University of the Pacific and a PhD in English from the University at Buffalo - SUNY. He has completed extensive coursework from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute, has earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential, and has been elected a Fellow of the Public Relations Society of America.

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Chuck Marsh has a comprehensive background serving in university, government, community, media and public relations environments with extensive practical organizational and management experience as part of a college administrative leadership team.

Prior to joining Communications Counsel he was director of university relations at the Abington College of Penn State University, located immediately north of Philadelphia. There he managed all business, community and government relations, and provided strategic leadership, vision, management and budget oversight for a team of communications professionals involved in internal and external communications; marketing, branding and advertising; media relations; graphic and web design; web development and analytics; video production; social media; events planning and storytelling. 

Before entering higher education he spent 14 years with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, managing communications in the district for legislative initiatives, grassroots efforts and political campaigns. He later served as executive director of the 12-member delegation of state representatives in southeastern Pennsylvania and as district office chief of staff to the senior member of the delegation.  

He and his wife Diane live in the greater Philadelphia area. 

Communications Counsel regularly handles key areas of guidance for colleges and universities. They include:

1. Executive speech coaching. We work with high-ranking officials — often university presidents — on how to be more effective in public speaking. We also prepare officials for how to handle high-stakes news media interviews. Our work in this area is informed by our experience doing this type of counseling for CEOs, governors, members of Congress, and former President Ronald Reagan.

2. Crisis Communications consulting. We help public sector and private sector institutions — often colleges and universities — respond and communicate during times of crisis. This includes drafting messages and preparing spokespeople as they brief and update internal and external stakeholders and the news media.

3. Media Training. We present workshops (ranging from half day to two days) where we help participants learn the best practices of interacting with the news media. The advice ranges from how to earn positive news coverage to how to respond effectively and quickly in a crisis setting. We use true-to-life higher education scenarios and we maintain a lively mix of lecture, video examples, and hands-on practice. We cover advanced topics of message discipline, bridging, primacy, and cognitive dissonance in a way that participants will be able to utilize right away.

Our previous higher ed clients have included:

The Ohio State University
Penn State Abington
Penn State Brandywine
Kutztown University
University of Toledo
Bowling Green State University
University of Akron
Ohio University
Wright State University
University of Cincinnati
Kutztown University
Columbus State Community College

Otterbein University
Ohio Wesleyan University
Harcum College
Central Penn College
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
Columbus College of Art and Design

In all we do, we are careful and intentional about reminding participants that we are just the outside resource experts and that we work hand in hand with the internal communications experts, who are the go-to people on a day to day basis. We also confer with internal staff ahead of the sessions, so local issues and particular areas of concern can be addressed.

Mark Weaver from our firm has been a speaker for the annual College & University Public Relations and Associated Personnel (CUPRAP) conference each year of the last four years and have also been the keynote presenter (covering crisis communications). He has also been a keynote speaker for the Public Relations Society of America Counselors to Higher Education (PRSA CHE).

Mr. Weaver’s work as an attorney representing colleges and universities informs all he does, which is particularly helpful during high-profile litigation that threatens the institution’s reputation. 

Mr. Weaver is an adjunct faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Law, University of Akron, and the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.