There are tons of places to get weather forecasts these days. Many just require a free app and a zip code. For broadcast meteorologists it has gotten harder than ever to attract an audience and keep them coming back. It’s not only important to create interesting, accurate content; you need to make the message meaningful and memorable. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a great book a few years back called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Thrive. In it, they discuss the elements that make ideas and information more likely to take hold. After all, what’s the point of an accurate forecast if your viewers either tune out, or don’t remember what you said? It’s not just what we say, but how we say it that gives our content meaning.
Weather apps on your smart phone run into the same problem. There’s much more to a forecast than a number and an icon. It’s the job of a broadcast meteorologist to help the viewer use that data in a more meaningful way. Maybe storms are just going to be scattered late in the day, maybe they’ll be severe. Perhaps dewpoints will be in the upper 60s, or maybe it will be insanely windy. Weather forecasts (at least good ones) are a lot more than a number and an icon. So if a viewer is going to sit down and give us three minutes of their day to explain the next seven days weather, how can we do it in such a way that makes it both interesting and memorable. Chip and Dan Heath outline a method called SUCCESs to help us create “sticky” content. Here’s how I apply it to the field of broadcast meteorology:
Simple – We can start by keeping things simple. Too often we try to do too much in the time we have and end up losing our audience in the details. Instead, keep your forecast limited to a few important main ideas. Think about what your viewers care about most and make sure you clearly answer that question by the end of the weathercast. Unexpected – If you fall into a rut with the same six graphics every night, you may be at risk of lulling your viewers to sleep. It’s important to keep things fresh, whatever the weather. Feature graphics help provide more information that compliment your weathercast of the day. Think of new and interesting content to talk about, and new ways of talking about the content you use every day.
Concrete – When we are concrete, we give details that add value to the forecast. This may be done by explaining exactly when something is going to happen, where it’s going to happen, or how significant the weather event is going to be. By giving concrete examples, it forces the meteorologist to get more specific, but that also helps give the audience a better idea of what tomorrow’s weather will look like.
Credible – Our weathercasts gain credibility when we seek outside sources to back up our message. If we have severe weather, it’s usually helpful to have watches and warnings issued by your local National Weather Service office. If you get pollen data, or water clarity information or anything that helps give more useful information to your weathercast, your message becomes more credible.
Emotional – Use descriptive words and give your data a feeling to make your weathercasts more emotional. People don’t connect with numbers, but if you can describe what those numbers will feel like, it will help them remember. Your data should be qualitative just as much as quantitative.
Stories – Share your experiences with your viewers to create stories. Anchor chat is a great opportunity to help show a side of you away from the chroma-key wall. Planning to go to a great fall festival over the weekend. Let viewers know, and tell them if they’ll need a jacket. The weathercast shouldn’t always about you, but showing your audience that you’re a real person and not just a talking head can make your shows more sticky. You don’t need to apply all of these every day, and eventually you might find ones that you can count on more than others. The key is to finding one or two of these traits that show your style as a weathercaster, and using them to help your broadcasts become more memorable. A broadcast meteorologist is a lot more than an icon and a high temperature. Show viewers there is much more to talk about. You’re way better than a free app.