Putting Out Fires: Ric Elert, Conversant Help People in Need

Ric Elert, president at Conversant, serves on FIA’s board. Conversant is one of FIA’s top partners.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

And where there’s fire, there’s now geo-targeted alerts urging people to steer clear of the affected area.

Ric Elert knows the drill.

Elert, president of Conversant, a personalized digital marketing agency, has helped douse the flames on potential disasters alongside the Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA) for years.


FIA uses Conversant’s technology to locate and warn those in danger.

“Back in the old days, if the store’s on fire, everyone grabs a bucket to go help,” said Elert, who was recently named to Crain’s Chicago Tech 50, highlighting those on the cutting edge of technology. “It’s not just, ‘Where’s the firemen?’ And FIA is the easiest form of that. It’s making your capabilities available to save a kid.”

FIA began as a partnership between Conversant and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in January 2011 with the intent to prevent child abductions via geo-targeted AMBER Alerts.

“Conversant started out as personalized advertising, so we’re always big on one-to-one communication,” Elert said. “When it started, our thought was, ‘How do we give back to the community? And what are the ways to enable our precision messaging to help people?’”

Big Data, Big Results 

After roughly three months of testing, Conversant propelled FIA to go live with its first AMBER Alert, a child abduction in Florida. The results were staggering.

Within an hour of the system kicking on, FIA President Jason Bier received an unexpected phone call from the NCMEC.

“We were serving so many AMBER Alerts in Florida, we brought down their entire system,” Bier said. “So we had to stop the AMBER Alert, and this is what made us realize how powerful this thing is. It was a wakeup call.

“We turned it off, fixed the problem, cached the photo locally and took the load off of the 911 system. The child ended up being saved and everything was fine.”

Since then, stranger abductions in the U.S. have fallen to nearly zero, and FIA’s partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization to deliver weather warnings. Additional collaborations continue to transpire across the globe.

Elert, who now serves on FIA’s board, is not surprised that other associations are keen to get involved with the nonprofit.

“You want to make a better world,” Elert said. “You want it better for your kids. I serve on a lot of boards for university, high school and mentor programs. If you can help one kid be better, that kid can impact 20 people.

“A would-be child abductor knows that the minute the alert goes out on this platform, everyone will be aware of it. It’s not just helping recover the child, it’s helping prevent something — whether that’s a child abduction or an unexpected storm from wreaking havoc. And that’s the biggest thing, trying to make a better world for everyone to live in.”

Written by Logan Malloy, copywriter at Conversant.

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