Don’t Tell Viewers a Weather Story. Do This Instead.
News consultants have been saying this for years, “Tell a weather story.” That suggestion is filled with good intentions. It encourages broadcast meteorologists to deliver more than data during their weathercasts. But what exactly is a weather story? And how do you tell it?
For broadcast meteorologists, the data is the story. Just like mathematicians can see a story within equations, meteorologists see a story within the thermodynamics of the atmosphere. They understand and appreciate the complicated way the upper winds affect the movement of air closer to the ground and how the transfer of heat and moisture can produce an unstable environment, ripe for convective development that could cultivate violent vortices in one area while mixing with cold air to create snow squalls only a few hundred miles away. There’s beauty in that process, but it doesn’t necessarily help the average person who wants to know if it’s going to rain tomorrow.
Here’s a better suggestion.
DELIVER THE MESSAGE
One of the fundamentals of effective weather communication is a clear, concise message. What do viewers want to know and need to know right now? What do you want viewers to remember after watching your weathercast? What’s the underlying theme of your weather hits?
Answer those questions in three or four statements. Be specific. Include details like threats and impacts, timing and amounts. That’s your message. Now, deliver the message. Produce your weathercasts, digital webcasts, and social media posts with graphics that explain that message.
During major weather events, like hurricanes and severe weather outbreaks, you might have three of four different statements about the same storm system, all delivered within the same weathercast. Other times, all three messages might be completely different. In that case, you might consider dedicating each weather hit to a separate message.
Above all, don’t overproduce. Stay on message from the cross talk to the extended forecast.
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
When you limit yourself to producing content around a few select messages, it might feel like you’re leaving something out. You are. And that’s good!
Consider the viewer who is exposed to thousands of ads and bits of information every day. That’s a lot of noise to shift through. Don’t create more clutter by filling your weather hits with extraneous data and details. Deliver the message. Your viewers and followers will appreciate it.
Tim Heller is an AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, Talent Coach, and Weather Content Consultant. He helps local TV stations connect with their community through essential weather information.