Weather Communications Has A Problem And Business Thinking Can Fix It

As a meteorologist, a weather communicator, and someone to aims to be humble, I’ve come to accept and respect that the weather community has a critical issue that needs to be addressed. As a businessperson, I see business problems being solved daily, but I also see a solution to the mounting weather communications problem.


This problem is better shown than explained. It’s worth noting that there is a lot of great weather communication out there, and I’m not going to target specific people or companies as much as the product itself. To show this example, I will use New York City, a place I have never worked and with weather communications companies for which I have never worked.

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As I write this, Hurricane Florence is a major hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s what the New York City NBC affiliate has to say recently:

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When I read this, I think to myself:

“What is the ‘breakdown’ coming up? You just gave me the whole forecast. Why do I need a breakdown?”
“What’s on the app that I can’t get here? You just gave me the current conditions of the storm and earlier you tweaked out the track.”
“What are the latest updates? When are these updates coming? Didn’t you just tell me 95% of what I need to know about the approaching hurricane?”

Here’s some of what CBS in New York has to say:

The screaming message here is it will be a cloudy, wet, breezy day in New York. But I’m left with the following questions:

“I could get this on my smart phone now. Why do I need to see your communication that takes up more than a minute of my time?”
“You just told me what was going to happen today. Why do you need to tell me again?”
“There’s a lot of information about others, but I just want the information about me.”

Here’s some of what ABC in New York has to say:

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Again, I’ve grabbed some tweets that showcase local warnings, a snapshot of current conditions, and a link to a website where Florence is likely heading…but I’m left with the following questions:

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“When is the greatest risk here and south of here from Hurricane Florence?”
“How is Florence going to impact me?”
“You showed me it’s raining now. When is it going to stop?”
“I see the radar and the warning. Where can I go for more information?”

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There are other weather communicators out there talking about New York, and here are some of those tweets:

This is just a sampling of tweets (from Twitter). People can follow and trust who they wish, people can get weather from other social media sources, they can get weather information from non-social media sources, or they can – to be honest – live their live without getting informed on the weather at all.

As someone who used to work as a meteorologist (and still is one per my degree) but now works in business, I see the communications problem more clearly now.

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Among other things, successful businesses have:
– A product or service people want to buy or use
– New products and services over time to create growth
– Profitability, especially if it’s increasing
– Good leaders, ethics, goals, and boundaries
– Create unique value, especially compared to others
– Have competitive advantages, especially sustainable competitive advantages

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Kroger isn’t the only one with good ideas, but they have a value stream. They know how to get you in the store, to the gas pump, using their app, and using their services. They make money not because they create value for you, but also because they have many ways to get your money and connect the value from one place they own to another.

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I tell you all of this to highlight the weather communication problem: there is very little sustainable competitive advantage in weather communication right now. ABC, NBC, and CBS in New York (above) didn’t just give the same or similar forecast; they also:

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– Have the same look and color scheme
– Have no information I can’t get on a free/ad-free smartphone app, from Alexa, or on the Internet
– Largely lack a link to easily get additional valuable information
– Largely lack a call to action or impact
– Don’t cross-promote
– Don’t incentivize

The other weather tweets :

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– Largely lack a link to easily get additional valuable information (or don’t motivate)
– Largely lack a call to action or impact
– Take a significant amount of time to read or process
– Lack the locality of weather
– Don’t incentivize
– Don’t cross-promote