Joseph Abreu, APR, Discusses PRSA and His Year Ahead as Chair

January 2024
Share this article

PRSA’s 2024 Chair Joseph Abreu, APR, is the chief communications officer for the Clerk of the Court & Comptroller of Lee County in Fort Myers, Fla., where he is responsible for strategic communications, public affairs, media relations, emergency management and reputation/brand management. 

Prior to joining the public sector, Abreu directed communications, special events and development for Compass, one of the largest LGBTQ community centers in the country.  

He recently talked with Strategies & Tactics about the start of his PR career, the importance of getting involved with membership and the rewards of serving as a volunteer leader. 

You graduated from the University of Florida, which has a renowned PR program. Were you always interested in public relations? 

I interned at the Miami Herald when I was in high school. I was passionate about investigative journalism and news broadcasting. I originally went to UF to study journalism, though I eventually became interested in creative campaigns and special events.  

I felt there was a strong, ethical connection between public relations and journalism. In both professions, I could advocate for people who need it, uncover stories and share information. I decided to change my major. 

You told us previously that you’ve always excelled in math. How has your interest in numbers influenced or supported your communications skills? 

Being comfortable with conducting research and evaluating results are critical components of being an effective communicator. I always enjoy gathering quantitative data to show how far I’ve moved the needle with my comms work. It shows the value of the communications function to our colleagues and clients, and it elevates our profession. 

If you want to grow into a more executive role, you must be comfortable with budgets and profit-and-loss statements and be able to speak the language of the C-suite. Whether you’re managing a department or running your own consultancy, it is critical that you have solid business acumen. That’s why I always advocate for understanding financial data, measurement and data analytics. 

What do you believe are some of PRSA’s strengths? 

PRSA has many strengths, from our Code of Ethics to our mentoring programs to our robust professional development offerings. Our Chapters, Districts and Professional Interest Sections are especially strong. Last year, more than 50% of our Chapters saw membership growth. We also saw more members joining one of our 14 Sections.  

This comes as a result of the investments we’ve made to operate more efficiently and share best practices across the organization.

Keeping Chapters and Sections strong is paramount to our success, and we’re making it easier to recruit and retain members so they can focus on professional development and networking, which is why we’re all part of this great organization. 

PRSA offers extensive PD programs for communications professionals — at every career stage — that fit their schedules, including live workshops, certificate programs and on-demand webinars. 

I credit my professional and personal growth to PRSA. The organization has guided me every step of the way to develop new knowledge, skills and abilities. It has also taught me leadership skills and broadened my networks, helping me develop lifelong friendships. 

As we enter 2024, what issues are you monitoring? How is PRSA helping address these topics? 

In 2024, we’ll see the continued amplification of artificial intelligence and its impact on our day-to-day work. I encourage members to review “Promise & Pitfalls: The Ethical Use of AI for Public Relations Practitioners,” which PRSA and our Board of Ethics and Professional Standards released in November. It provides an extensive framework that follows our Code of Ethics and provides best practices on the proper use of AI tools. 

Misinformation and disinformation will continue to be amplified this year. For insights and guidance on this ongoing challenge to communicators, PRSA launched an influencer series in November, with 2024 Chair-Elect Ray Day, APR, leading a roundtable with top comms executives and researchers. PRSA plans to release a playbook with highlights from the conversation this year.

What’s your advice on getting the most out of PRSA?

There is something for everyone, whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’re a seasoned professional — it’s hard to count the ways to stay connected with PRSA and the community of 25,000-plus members. There are in-person meetings or events, an abundance of editorial resources, expertise and opportunities for interaction through our online community forums, and hours of on-demand and live programming.

PRSA also has myriad volunteer opportunities to help with important projects that don’t require the same long-term commitments that a leadership role might require, such as serving as a judge for an awards program or helping to plan a local event. These activities will help you grow as a communicator as well as benefit your fellow members.

I often encourage people to continuously ask themselves, “What am I doing to ensure that the profession that we love so much is continuing to grow, and how am I making it better for the next generation?” I have a great deal of respect for people who give back to the profession and PRSA makes that possible. 

What has kept you motivated to continue serving PRSA? 

I first volunteered to be the Palm Beach Chapter treasurer in 2006. Serving in that role gave me a glimpse of the impact PRSA has on elevating our profession and professionals. I also learned that investing my time to serve as a volunteer leader in our organization was the best way to maximize my membership and give back to my fellow members.
In the years that followed, I served as Chapter president, Sunshine District chair, District Council chair, and Board director, secretary, treasurer and chair-elect. With every role, I’ve had the honor to work with like-minded ethical professionals to elevate our profession. That is what drives me to continue giving back. Serving in these leadership roles also gives me a strong understanding of our member needs and wants — because I have experienced them firsthand.

This year, I look forward to working with our staff and volunteer leaders to further our Strategic Plan and move PRSA forward.

Return to Current Issue Preview 2024 | January 2024
Share this article
[jim cowsert/grapevine photo]

Subscribe to Strategies & Tactics


*Strategies & Tactics is included with a PRSA membership