Meg Bartow

Photo of Meg Bartow

Director, Public & Risk Communication, Senior Vice President
Washington DC
Posts: 5

Meg Bartow is Director of Public & Risk Communications with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Meg brings more than 15 years of communications experience to Ogilvy PR, specializing in disaster education, exercises, and training, and crisis communications planning and management for government agencies and associations. She has provided disaster preparedness counsel and training to agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, FEMA, the Departments of Justice, Education, and Labor.

She currently manages public relations outreach and stakeholder relations for FEMA’s FloodSmart integrated Marketing Campaign, and has directed communications support for FEMA’s Mitigation Division since 2005. Following Hurricane Katrina, Meg managed communications and public affairs activities for FEMA’s Mitigation Division, established post-disaster communications with stakeholders and partners for the Division, and worked closely with FEMA transitional recovery outreach staff in Mississippi and Louisiana, with special focus on post-flood recovery, flood mapping, and flood insurance claims issues. Meg also currently serves as deputy director of HHS’ Pandemic Flu: Take the Lead campaign to motivate business, civic, faith, and healthcare leaders to encourage personal pandemic flu preparedness.

With Ogilvy PR, Meg has managed media relations and supported public information training for DHS’ TOPOFF Exercise Series during the TOPOFF 2 and 3, and 4 exercises, In addition, Meg has supported VNN communications for the TOPOFF Exercise Program, developed disaster preparedness materials for HHS’ Office of Emergency Response and DHS’ Office of National Capital Region Coordination, and helped develop bioterrorism media workshops for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prior to joining Ogilvy PR, she helped coordinate flood relief and crisis communication for the private sector during Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina. Meg is a graduate of The College of William and Mary in Virginia with a Bachelors degree in English and American Studies, and earned a Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Talking Shop about Disasters and Technology at SXSW 2014

Mar 11

A Perfect Storm

The Insurance Information Institute (III) joined with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), the Red Cross, and the National Weather Service (NWS) at SXSW Interactive Festival to talk shop about how technology is helping them improve how they engage with and support consumers to prepare better and respond to disasters.

With hundreds of panels, sessions, and events at SXSW focused on engagement, new technology (can you say wearables!) and social good and innovation across many topic areas, there were only a handful of sessions I saw that focused on crisis and disaster communications. Kudos to the III for leading the conversation on Saturday, March 8th.

Those attending were very interested in learning how leading organizations, such as the NWS and Red Cross, are thinking about the use of technology during disasters. Many were volunteers in their local communities or supported community programs to alert residents in times of crisis. Check out my synopsis of the session on our ogilvydo blog.

What’s your Moneytude? And where did it come from?

Apr 11

With Tax Day looming, this is always the time of year that I tell myself it’s time to get more motivated to focus on how I’m spending and (importantly) what I’m saving. As a “late thirty-something,” I have also reached the age and personal circumstance where I’m not only planning for my own future, but also looking at the real possibility of helping manage the financial impacts of health challenges my parents are facing.

So here are a few things that I’ve done – in no particular order— in the last few months:

  1. Set monthly budget check-ins with my husband on our shared calendar
  2. Committed to discussing changes to my 401k and other saving goals with our financial advisor
  3. Begun to help  my Dad organize my parents’ financials and estate plans
  4. Failed at curtailing my online shopping habit – ooh, a package from J. Crew has actually just arrived
  5. Sweated about the fact that my husband and I really haven’t stuck to our monthly budget check-ins (see #1 above)

What I haven’t done – or done proactively – is talk with others, my friends, or even family, about my opinions, my choices, and my fears.  While we may have more access to information, software, and financial advice in 2013, talking openly about savings, spending, or investing is not the topic of choice among social and peer groups.   Even writing this blog post makes me a bit uncomfortable as I mention things about our financial advisor, how health issues have so suddenly changed how I approach my family’s financial situation, and about my new clothing purchases. Yes, I know I didn’t need those new spring tops, but at least they were on sale, right?

As a social marketer, I’ve committed much of my professional life to tackling issues around financial planning and security – as they relate to behavior.   So moving forward this year, while I’m going to look for ways to be more active and open about my own behavior regarding money, I’ve also outlined a few specific topic areas that I’ll be taking a deeper dive into in this year on the exCHANGE.

  • Our opinions and behaviors (our Moneytudes) are still widely shaped by those close to us – our family, our upbringing. And while attitudes can differ by generation, recent studies have also shown the influence that parents can have on younger generations.
  • The country’s economic climate can influence attitudes about money, but some experts have commented that it may not translate into behavior change. Anxiety has been higher as a result of the housing and economic crisis, for example, but this has not always resulted in changes in spending and savings.  In contrast, personal life events continue to be seen as major drivers of financial decision making  (e.g. marriage, job change or loss, family growth)
  • What it takes to successfully save for retirement (and the unexpected) is still largely misunderstood by many Americans, and can lead to mistakes, inaction, or being misled by fraudulent entities.
  • Technology, especially online banking and mobile apps have expanded access to financial planning tools and resources – for all ages and income levels.  Websites like have become very popular, and even the U.S. Department of Treasury rolled out a contest last summer, called the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge, for the best mobile app ideas to help Americans make smart financial decisions.

These are just a few of the ways in which Americans’ relationship with their finances is evolving.  What do you want to know more about?

What has shaped your attitudes about money, or planning for the future?

What are you personal barriers to paying off debt or saving more?

Who do you turn to for advice? Is that different than who your friends or family seek out?

I won’t leave home without Fido

Apr 05

Disaster communications and policy changes means residents and their furry family members are safer, more accommodated

Recently a colleague shared an article discussing the impact that the loss of a pet can have on humans –the grief can be extreme, akin to the loss of their human family members and friends.

Ok, so maybe I tend to have crazy cat person qualities (we have two cats at home), but as we’re heading into this year’s summer storm season, the article got me thinking about the emotional toll that disasters – and the impact of losing your pets during them –  can have on families. Many studies have explored how the love for pets and animals can lead to increased happiness, or even longevity. But the love for our pets can also influence choices we make that impact our safety.

The notion that you should evacuate with your pet was not always understood or easy to do. And although the message “don’t leave home without your pet” was part of disaster preparedness and response communications prior to Hurricane Katrina, pet-friendly shelters weren’t always easy to find or mandated by law. Communications regarding pets and disasters was usually a secondary message – as the enormity of human actions regarding their pets wasn’t fully understood, or possibly appreciated.

As a social marketer focused on disaster communications, what I find interesting is the great shift that occurred when communications and policy began to reflect what we know about human emotions, rather than fight against it. Building relevance to people’s lives is key to motivating action and changing behavior. And when it comes to disaster safety, including pets in the equation has done just that.

Hurricane Katrina became a catalyst for focusing more attention on the need for consistent communications, and policy – so that relief efforts weren’t hindered.  For example, a poll conducted by the Fritz Institute in 2006 showed that 44 percent of those who didn’t evacuate during Katrina stayed because they didn’t want to leave pets behind. In contrast, only 18 percent reported that they stayed behind because of relatives. That was a wake up call. An article in Dog’s Life Magazine marking the 5-year anniversary of Katrina also documents the public awakening to the plight of animals killed or left homeless and the resistance from residents to leave them behind after Katrina.  Gloria Dauphin, assistant to the CEO at the Louisiana SPCA is quoted as saying “We learned that animals must have a place at the table when it comes to disaster planning and response. We learned that saving pets [means] saving people.” Following Katrina, the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS act) and amendments to the Stafford Disaster Relief Act addressed needs for household pets during disasters. Many states and communities have followed suit with local laws to protect pets, and by extension, their owners. And more than ever, officials and organizations are focused on outreach efforts that prioritize pet resources and tips.

Skip to present day: Is it working?

When Hurricane Irene threatened the east coast last August, I found myself urging my parents, who live in Bethany Beach, Del., to evacuate. A mile inland from the coast, I had cause to worry – not just about them – but because that week in August just happened to coincide with “Grandparent camp,” when my parents take care of my two young nieces. This time they had another addition – one of their fuzzy granddaughters – my cat Lila. Here she is…

Understandably, they were initially concerned about being there in case something happened to the house, but everyone’s concern for my nieces and my questions about “What will happen to Lila?” if they stayed too long  got their attention and got them on the road to Washington, DC. Leaving Lila behind didn’t even come up as an option. Instead, they were equipped with the list of shelters along the way that took pets, just in case they needed to stop.

Some may find that staying behind and putting yourself and your family in harm’s way for your pet is a bit extreme. I have certainly felt that way – but working through the  evacuation steps during Hurricane Irene underscored the emotions we can feel when it comes our pets. I’m happy to see that a choice between being safe and protecting your pet isn’t one we have to make as often, due to widespread acceptance of pets as part of the disaster preparedness, response, and communications process.

Click here for more resources and to find a pet-friendly shelter in your state. And if my suggestion doesn’t motivate  you to learn more, maybe this picture will:

Click for more puppies, I mean resources.

See? Cute puppies always work.

Ready to Share and Learn @wsmconference

Apr 06

Well, our bags are getting packed and we’re almost ready to go. Ogilvy’s social marketing practice is buzzing with preparations for the 2nd World Non-Profit and Social Marketing Conference set to begin in Dublin this weekend.

It’s not rare to find our folks within the Social Marketing team discussing our latest ideas for engaging parents around healthy activities for their children, making bets about what a new “food pyramid” might look like, or anxiously tracking the latest weather reports to see if the latest storm may affect a community.  But it’s certainly not every day that we have the opportunity to share what we’ve devoted our energies to with others also committed to helping improve the lives of others, so we can learn from them and improve our work and the success of the programs we support.

The 2 ½ day conference is brimming with interesting and relevant topics – it’s difficult for me to choose which ones I will attend. A snapshot of the sessions Ogilvy will be participating in is below. We’ll be sharing case studies about our work to encourage colorectal cancer screenings, and build a women’s movement around heart health, as well as share some new insights we’ve helped uncover around the effectiveness of social media to amplify public health messages and trends in how Americans support causes.

Just this morning, in chatting with my colleague, Natalie Adler, about her session and the conference, we ran through a list of the many topics we’re looking forward to.  Natalie’s particularly looking forward to discussions on behavioral economics, especially in light of the general public’s recent interest in the topic, and how we leverage those theories in developing programs moving forward. We are also very interested to learn what social marketers around the globe are doing to reach and sustain engagement at the local level. 

So many choices – we wish we could extend the conference for a few more days. Let the learning and sharing begin!

Ogilvy Presentations and Panels

Monday, April 11

  • Keynote Session: Soap and Brotherhood: Marketing, Convergence, and Change, Miles Young, CEO Worldwide, Ogilvy & Mather
  • Environment Stream Session Chair, Jeff Chertack  
  • Making America FloodSmart: Reducing the Personal and Financial Risk and Impact of Floods in the United States, Meg Bartow
  • Ask Medicare: Reaching and Supporting Family Caregiver, Natalie Adler
  • Social Media as a Second Language: How 2 Strengthen Your MSG, Kristin Parrish, Leo Ryan, Jennifer Wayman, Aileen McGloin
  • Debate: Private/NGO/Public sector partnerships are the new hope, Chair, Jennifer Wayman, Executive Vice President, Social Marketing

Tuesday, April 12

  • Keynote Discussion:  Learning and evidence – what we know we know and how we know it, Chair, Tom Beall – Managing Director, Global Social Marketing Practice
  • Civic Solutions Discussion Chair – Michael Briggs – Executive Vice President, Social Marketing/Strategy & Planning, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
  • Using Research to Understand Hard-to-Reach Audiences, Trish Taylor PhD
  • Screen for Life: Prompting Colorectal Cancer Screening in the United States through Building Awareness, Engaging Communities and Leveraging Partners, Jennifer Chu and Michaela K. Thayer,
  • Know Stroke: Know the Signs. Act In Time: A National Awareness Campaign Targeting Underserved and At-Risk Communities Matt Escoubas
  • The Heart Truth®: Building a National Women’s Heart Health Movement, Sarah Temple
  • Dynamics of Cause Engagement, Jennifer Wayman and Denise Keyes
  • Using Social Media to Amplify Public Health Messages, Alexandra Hughes MPS and Trish Taylor PhD

We’ll be live-tweeting and blogging from sessions at the conference – join us on April 11 and 12 on Twitter, using the hashtag #ogilvywsm, and find out more here on the Social Marketing ExCHANGE, WomenOlogy , and  Fresh Influence blogs.

Making it Personal this Hurricane Season

Jun 07

Last Tuesday – June 1st – marked the official start of Hurricane Season. With the gulf oil spill top of mind, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season “above normal season” Outlook  naturally sparked conversation in the media, and among my friends and family. Here at Ogilvy, our Emergency and Risk Communication team reviewed the list of potential storms names that could become “all too familiar” to Americans – like Andrew, Katrina, and Ike.

In the first week of Hurricane Season, I expected the coverage about storm patterns and preparedness initiatives around the country. What I didn’t expect to see was the tornado warnings issued from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and into New England, and to read about the devastation left behind by tornados in Ohio. That’s precisely one important issue we face in communicating about natural disasters – the science behind predicting and tracking events is more sophisticated and accurate than ever before, but what we can’t predict is exactly how and when we will be personally affected – and all too often the unexpected becomes reality.

The personal impact of disasters is a critical component of what brings people together around an issue and to take part in helping those affected –in a specific locale, and also in wider circles.  After the Nashville floods in May, news footage, videos, recovery groups and individual stories shared both offline and online gave us a  near first-hand view and instantly connected us with ways to support and engage in recovery efforts.

The challenge for social marketers in increasing individual preparedness is showing the value of applying the empathy and lessons learned in the wake of disasters inward. Making it personal means that we should take action not only for others, but for ourselves and our families to increase our own level preparedness.

During this storm season, our Emergency and Risk Communication Team will be doing some storm tracking of our own –and we’ll be highlighting some of the preparedness tools, activities and campaigns, such as Louisiana’s Get a Game Plan program, here at the exChange.

Starting this month, I’m encouraging my friends and family to be a little self-centered when it comes to disaster planning and support. Make it personal for those who depend on you and who you depend on, before the next tornado or storm decides to head your way.