It’s easy to press Bari Love’s hot button – the one she’s wearing now, that is!
When Bari Love was a young travel writer, she was assigned to write about a small town in Georgia. When she drove into the village for the first time, she was welcomed by a big sign on the local bank: “Welcome Bari Love of Southern Living.”
“That was a big lesson to me in branding,” Bari said. “Powerful brands have a big impact and must create and maintain a great trust with their customers.”In her new job as SVP, Communications and Marketing at the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) Bari is the one now wearing the sign. “I’m wearing this ‘Vote Yes’ button for the July 31 Regional Transportation Referendum and I don’t intend to take it off until August 1,” she said. “It’s the biggest thing I’m working on for the Chamber.”
Bari took the MAC job in October after three decades on the agency side of numerous Atlanta PR and advertising firms, including Jackson Spalding, Ogilvy PR, Fletcher Martin & Ewing and Fitzgerald & Co.
Quite a career path for a woman whose college ambition was to go to law school.
“When I transferred to the University of Alabama from Indiana University, where I was majoring in political science, I needed to declare a minor,” the Birmingham native recalled Friday. “So I chose advertising and PR. Rusty (husband Russell Love) was finishing up law in Tuscaloosa and I landed a job at Southern Living in the file room of the travel department. I spent the summer reorganizing all their files and doing research. Occasionally, I’d find something interesting and they would let me write a filler story.”
After a year, she was promoted to travel writer, in what she called “the best job out of college ever! I’d travel with a photographer for the first week of the month, gathering 10 to 15 stories and then spend the rest of the month writing them.” Her favorite stories were about the pre-development days of Jekyll Island and when she and a photographer spent two weeks working on a cover story “getting to know every inch of Stone Mountain. We even found the guy who did the giant stone carving.”
When Rusty landed a job in Atlanta, Bari went searching for a job. “I had never worked in PR but I had met a lot of PR people when I was a writer, so I started interviewing with them,” she said. “Adweek Magazine’s cover story the week we moved here was their selection for Agency All-Stars and Julie Davis was their PR selection. So I wrote her a letter, saying ‘Congratulations on being named … you probably need to find the next All-Star,” so she called me in and hired me.
“My first day on the job, Julie was out of the office and her partner called me in and said, ‘I have some news: we’re dissolving the agency, but the good news is we’re letting everyone go except for you – you can help us dissolve the firm.’ The partners ended up splitting the business and I went with Julie. We built the firm back up mostly through supporting ad agencies. One of them, Dave Fitzgerald, bought the firm. That was when ‘Integrated Agency’ was all the buzz, even before we had a name for it.”
After seven years working with Julie, she served as EVP at Fletcher Martin Ewing for seven years before three years at Ogilvy as managing director. In 2007, she joined Jackson Spalding as a partner, leading several large accounts including the Primrose Schools and Chick-fil-A. When the communications job at MAC opened up, she was recommended strongly by Renay Blumenthal, a classmate in the 2006 Leadership Atlanta program.
“This is such an interesting opportunity at the Chamber,” Bari said. “It was the right time to help Atlanta with its marketing communications. There is so much positive news to share. We have so many assets. My main priority at MAC, other than transportation, is to transform the website into a digital media platform, which debuts in July. There is also a lot to do to continue building on our partnerships in the region and across the state. Our job is to to recruit companies to the region and to help those that are here to grow.”
Looking back, Bari sees the Atlanta PR industry as “still a business of a lot of personal relationships. Through relationships you build trust and that is so critical. The transition to MAC has allowed me to look at a new set of issues and priorities and to get creative on solutions. Fortunately at MAC, I have great colleagues and a little more time to think and work through the critical issues to help us grow.”
When she’s not pedaling major policy issues, Bari is pedaling fast on her bicycle. One of her favorite routes is a place she knows well: “All around Stone Mountain, of course!”
– Chris Schroder