Renata Toney (left) & Michelle Kearns (right)
Visit Buffalo Niagara is pleased to announce the appointment of Renata Toney as the new Vice President of Destination Experience. She will oversee the organization’s work managing destination and visitor experience and customer service. Renata will also serve as a project manager, developing community relationships and engagement.
Renata joins us from the Burchfield Penney Art Center, where she was, most recently, communications manager. She was part of the 2008 team that guided the museum’s re-opening of the new freestanding facility on Elmwood Avenue.
Throughout her career, Renata has focused on communication leadership, writing and supervising targeted marketing campaigns for a range of industries. After beginning her career as an intern at Bristol Myers Squibb, she was promoted to publications editor. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, Renata was the first marketing and public affairs coordinator at AIDS Community Services, now Evergreen Health Services. She worked in public relations account management at Eric Mower & Associates and as a marketing director at the Buffalo Museum of Science.
A City Honors School graduate, Renata holds a bachelor’s degree in public communication from SUNY Buffalo State. She owns On Message Communication, a state-certified communications consultancy.
When not at her desk writing, editing, spearheading new projects and connecting with people, she volunteers, serving on boards of organizations throughout the community — from the Pappy Martin Legacy Society Jazz Collective and Assembly House 150 to The Service Collaborative of WNY, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo Heritage Carousel, the Bennett-Wells American Legion Post and the Arden-Newburgh Block Club.
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We also welcome our new Communications Manager, Michelle Kearns, to the Visit Buffalo Niagara Marketing team. Michelle is now writing and editing stories about the people and things that make Buffalo unique for our website and soon, the 2023 edition of the Visit Buffalo Niagara Visitor Guide. She also showcases the city to visiting travel writers and social media content creators. Michelle spent most of her career as a journalist, writing for the Associated Press, Maine newspapers, the Boston Globe, and The Buffalo News.
She has a passion for story, its power to connect communities, and sharing the communication and story tools journalists use. Michelle left the newsroom to teach writing, communication, and digital media storytelling for a digital media communication bachelor’s program that Villa Maria College asked her to create. She recently helped write, design, and launch the first three issues of Learn Magazine for the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education.
Michelle grew up in the Elmwood Village and left Buffalo to earn a bachelor’s in English at Colorado College. She studied in Greece and France, before landing in New York City to edit and write features for women’s magazines. Her enthusiasm for research, interviewing, and writing led her to newspaper jobs in Maine. She left the Pine Tree State for Boston University and earned her master’s in journalism before coming home to take a feature-writing position with the Buffalo News.
If Michelle is not working on stories, you can find her on her bike, experimenting with recipes, reading up for book club, organizing gatherings for family and friends and, occasionally, playing croquet at Delaware Park. What does she love about Buffalo? The surprise factor. “People don’t know what’s here until they get here,” she said. “And that makes revealing Buffalo fun.”
We value the talents and ideas of everyone on our team and are thrilled to have Renata and Michelle grow with us. The torch of publishing this e-newsletter has now been officially passed on to Renata; expect to hear from her each week.