Meeting/Event Information

PR to Executive: A Roundtable Discussion

February 28, 2017
8:00 AM to 9:00 AM
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Weinberg Campus - The Meadows Second Floor Lounge
2650 North Forest Road
Getzville, NY 14068

Many of the qualities that make a great public relations practitioner are also key to successful executives — strong communication skills, attention to detail, the ability to motivate a team and remain calm in a crisis, and more. It’s no surprise then that many longtime PR professionals make the leap into executive-level roles and now lead companies or nonprofits.

But how did they do it? What challenges do they face? How did their previous roles prepare them for these new responsibilities? And, now that they’re the decision-makers, what advice can they offer communications pros on building a successful career and proving the value of PR in any organization?

Join PRSA for a roundtable discussion with several incredible PR-professionals-turned-executives on Feb. 28.


Tara A. Ellis
President and CEO
Meals on Wheels for Western New York and the Meals on Wheels Foundation of WNY 

Tara has been the president and CEO of both Meals on Wheels for Western New York and the Meals on Wheels Foundation of WNY since spring 2012. She is responsible for all aspects of administering the home-delivered meal program, which serves nearly 1 million meals each year, as well as food production for the congregate program and ancillary services and programs. Prior to joining the organization, Tara spent more than five years at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute where her last position was chief development and communications officer. Before that, she spent nearly a decade at M&T Bank, first serving in the Corporate Communications department and then as vice president of internal communications, a department she established and grew from 2001 to 2005. Prior to M&T, Tara held positions at the Erie County Legislature, the New York State Senate Majority Press Office, The Post-Standard, the SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse and the University at Buffalo.

Kenneth P. Houseknecht
Executive Director
Mental Health Association of Erie County 

In 2011, Ken was named executive director of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Erie County, an organization where he had been a volunteer for nearly three decades. The MHA promotes the mental health and well-being of the community through education, public information, prevention programs and training, while supporting individuals and families living with mental illness through advocacy, treatment linkage and outreach services. Before that, Ken spent 30 years doing public and investor relations work at such organizations as Gibraltar Industries, Crowley Webb & Associates and Travers Collins & Co.

Jeff Paterson, APR
Jeff is chief executive officer of Empower, a $14 million nonprofit organization with 300 employees who support individuals with intellectual disabilities and the broader community. In recognition of his turnaround efforts at Empower, Jeff received one of Business First of Buffalo’s 2015 C-Level Executive Awards, which recognize Buffalo’s most effective business leaders. Jeff spent the first 15 years of his career as a public relations professional, first on the agency side and later in the nonprofit sector, and gradually shifted into nonprofit administration. He is a past president of PRSA Buffalo Niagara, which has honored him with the May C. Randazzo Outstanding Practitioner Award and the Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service Award, not to mention more than 70 Excalibur Awards, including four Platinum “best of show” awards. Jeff taught public relations courses at SUNY Buffalo State for more than 10 years and is proud to have helped many young professionals launch their careers.

More presenters to be announced.

Registration will open at 7:45 a.m., and the program will begin promptly at 8 a.m. A continental breakfast will be provided. Using the map at the following link as a guide --, enter the Weinberg Campus from the Meadows entrance on North Forest Road and continue to the Meadows building (located across from the JCC of Greater Buffalo). Free on-site parking is available.


$15.00 PRSA Member Ticket

$25.00 Guest Ticket

$0.00 Student Ticket

$0.00 May C. Randazzo Scholarship Donation (Enter "1" here to donate and input amount in next step)

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5:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Tralf Music Hall
622 Main Street
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