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Lessons learned on effective, strategic weather communication on social-digital media


Lessons learned on effective, strategic weather communication on social-digital media Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang National Tropical Weather Conference – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Lessons learned on effective, strategic weather communication on social-digital media

Lessons learned on effective, strategic weather
communication on social-digital media
  • Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang
  • National Tropical Weather Conference
  • April 10, 2015

Talk outline
  • About CWG
  • Some digital weather communication best practices
  • Snowstorm case
  • Sandy case
  • Social media
  • Sandy case
  • Dealing with armchair meteorologists
  • Wrap-up

My journey
  • Weather obsessed since age 10
  • Undergraduate degree, U. Va.
  • Graduate degree, Wisconsin
  • Environmental Protection Agency, 10 years
  • CapitalWeather.com ? Capital Weather Gang at the
    Washington Post

_at_jsamenow on Twitter
About the Capital Weather Gang
  • Washington Posts weather team
  • One full-time managing editor, one deputy editor
  • 20 outside freelance contributors
  • Content spans print, web, mobile devices,
    includes radio hits video
  • Broad mix of content
  • Local forecasts and commentary
  • National and international weather stories
  • Weather photography, history, astronomy, space
    weather, weather policy, climate change more
  • Emphasis
  • Decision support Communicating uncertainty
  • Engagement
  • http//www.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang

_at_capitalweather on Twitter
(No Transcript)
Basic formula for effective communication
  • Ed Maibach, George Mason
  • Simple, clear message
  • Repeat often
  • Delivered by trusted source(s)
  • Maibach adds if you want people to do something
    w/ info make it
  • EasyFunPopular

_at_maibached on Twitter
Digital media Some personal lessons learned (1/2)
  • Headline and lead in to any discussion needs to
    be strongest, most compelling (people have short
    attention spans)
  • Newspaper readers read 56 of the headlines, but
    only 13 of the stories are at least half-read.
    (Joe Romm, Language Intelligence)
  • Stories w/ boring headlines become irrelevant
  • Layer content, wonkiest material deep down
  • Lead with most important info.
  • Define technical terms, limit acronyms
  • Break down, dont dumb down complex thoughts
  • Use analogies/metaphors
  • William Clark 3 building blocks of successful
    scientific assessments- credibility, legitimacy,
    and salience
  • Add good story telling

Digital media Some personal lessons learned (2/2)
  • Show off voice, personality, enthusiasm for
  • Be a mirror of science community
  • Learn from strong communicators
  • Practice makes perfect
  • Be humble

Some tips from Joe Romms book Language
  • Short words are the best words
  • If you dont repeat, you cant compete.
    Repetition and rhyming help people remember your
  • The golden rule of speech-making is Tell em
    what youre going to tell em tell em then
    tell em what you told em.
  • If you want to be more noticed and remembered,
    use more figures of speech (metaphors/analogies.)
  • Language Intelligence Lessons on Persuasion
    from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga

Effective weather communication
  • Confidence levels in forecasts
  • Scenarios for complex, high impact events
  • Probabilistic information
  • Compelling visuals
  • Specifics on timing, location
  • Accountability
  • Learn by doing, seek feedback

Snow case
  • Learning from a bad forecast The Snowquester,
    March 6, 2013

Snowquester (March 6, 2013)
The forecast we issued
A bad deterministic forecast for a high impact
storm can be devastating for consumer trust
  • Never has there been an industry which spends so
    much time churning out so much bull
  •  I can tell you that weather predictions have
    always been a standing joke. It's all a scam to
    increase ratings on the weather shows, and to
    reward advertisers
  • As far as I am concerned, all of our local
    meteorologist should be fired for cause. Why?
    Because they are wrong more often than right and
    costs us big money.

From Snowquester when forecast information
fails http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-
But readers also told us theyd welcome more
honesty, uncertainty, probabilistic information
The best forecast for Snowquester was one we
could not issue with a straight face, and one
most Washingtonians would have ridiculed Rain,
sleet, and/or snow likely - heavy at times - with
snow accumulations of 0-14 inches.   Yes. Why
not? The rain/snow line will be wobbling all over
so that's all you can say. If it's the best, it's
the best. Say that, and then give your
probabilities.    What does ridicule have to do
with it? I support the CWG, but this business
about how meteorologists have to depart from
truth and accuracy because they're worried about
their popularity ratings I don't understand. Are
they scientists or entertainers?
Brad Panovich, WCNC
From Snowquester when forecast information
fails http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-
The winter after Snowquester
  • A successful scenario approach

8 days out a heads-up
5-7 days out Provide general level sense of what
could happen
  • Although a historic storm is a possibility, the
    storm could deliver just a glancing blow or even
    miss the East Coast entirely. And for residents
    of the mid-Atlantic (including Washington, D.C.
    and points further south), a direct hit is not
    particularly likely although it cannot be ruled
  • Residents of the Northeast, perhaps, should be
    most concerned. The European model - which did
    the best job simulating hurricane Isaacs track
    in late August - delivers a devastating blow from
    central New Jersey to southern New England
    (including New York City)
  • (http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weath

4 days out Communicate 4 scenarios
  • SCENARIO 1 - NJ TO Long Island landfall Indirect
    hit, major impacts for DC (45 percent chance)
  • SCENARIO 2 - Mid-Atlantic landfall Worst case
    direct hit, severe impacts (30 percent chance)
  • SCENARIO 3 New England landfall Glancing blow,
    minor impacts (20 percent chance)
  • SCENARIO 4 Out to sea FEW IMPACTS (5 percent
  • (http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weath

3 days out Communicate 3 scenarios
  • SCENARIO 1 - Landfall from Virginia Beach to the
    Delmarva Worst case (1 in 3 chance)
  • SCENARIO 2 Landfall over south Jersey Almost
    direct hit (1 in 3 chance)
  • SCENARIO 3 - Landfall between northern New Jersey
    and southern New England Indirect hit (1 in 3
  • (http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weath

2 days out Communicate 2 scenarios
  • SCENARIO 1- Landfall from northern Delmarva to
    northern New Jersey Near direct hit (70 percent
    chance, very bad case)
  • SCENARIO 2 - Landfall from southern to central
    Delmarva Direct hit (30 percent chance, worst
  • http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weathe

The day before Detailed deterministic forecast
  • http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weathe

Social media is powerful tool for science
  • Two way conversation
  • Why does social media work?
  • Instant
  • We like to share
  • Gives people a voice
  • Access to experts, influencers
  • If you want to communicate effectively, you must
    use social media to be relevant and reach a broad
  • Social media is transforming and revolutionizing
    weather and science reporting and user engagement
  • Its real-time and all the time
  • Its interactive
  • It can greatly amplify reach of message

Sandy social media case
Instagram via NYNJ Port Authority
Sandy closes in Warnings, prep tips, day before
.if you're riding out the storm in a house
surrounded by trees, stay on the opposite side of
the house from the wind on a low floor. Bryan
Norcross, The Weather Channel
Sandy closes in, day before Life-saving
information goes viral
If you are still reluctant to evacuate, think
about your loved ones Gary Szatkowski,
Philadelphia (Mt. Holly) NWS office
Sandy hours away Concise, effective risk
Sandy washes ashore flood of photos visual
Estimate 10 pictures tagged Sandy each second
posted to Instagram
Sandy strikes Ground truth Constant updates on
water levels in NYC
(No Transcript)
Social media successes during Sandy
  • Viral propagation of preparedness and impacts
  • Photos of the storm's impacts in near-real time,
    as well as pertinent data, such as the water
    level at The Battery demonstrated storms
    seriousness, validated forecasts
  • Freedman In NYC, television coverage was
    hampered by the difficulty of following such a
    rapidly unfolding and dangerous event on the
    ground. User-generated content actually was
  • Emergency responders used Twitter to locate those
    in need of rescuing, urgent supplies, etc.

Sandy strikes Social media sore points
Inaccurate Tweets Fake pics
NY Times synthesis of Twitter value during Sandy
  • The New York Times on the usefulness of Twitter
    during Sandy
  • As the storm bore down, Twitter got busy and
    very, very serious.
  • ...It is hard to data-mine the torrent some
    estimates suggested there were three and a half
    million tweets with the hashtag Sandy
  • ...Twitter not only keeps you in the data
    stream, but because you can contribute and
    re-tweet, you feel as if you are adding something
    even though Mother Nature clearly has the upper
    hand. The activity of it, the sharing aspect, the
    feeling that everyone is in the boat and rowing,
    is far different from consuming mass media.

How Hurricane Sandy Slapped the Sarcasm Out of
Twitter http//mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/201
The armchair meteorologist problem
  • Social media gives everyone a voice, irrespective
    of credentials
  • High school kids, weather amateurs, (pros too)
    can misuse, misinterpret model and push out
    unreliable info that spreads virally

What should digital and broadcast meteorologists
  • Confront? Ignore? Engage constructively w/ bad
  • pointless to expose and shameIts a
    never- ending and unwinnable game of
  • Focus on educating audience on limitations of
    weather forecast
  • (http//www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weath

  • NHC speaks out
  • Now that we have entered the heart of the
    hurricane season, there is an increase in the
    Internet hype around disturbances that NHC is
    monitoring. Given the long lead times involved,
    the wide range of possible outcomes, and the
    historically poor and erratic performance of
    guidance models with weak disturbances, there is
    no reliable science to forecast potential impacts
    to specific locations that would be more than a
    week away.
  • . . .
  • The bottom line really is be alert, be
    prepared, but also be wary of long-range
    projections that go beyond what the science can
    offer. And make the NOAA National Hurricane
    Center www.hurricanes.gov your calm, clear, and
    trusted source for official forecast and warning
    information on tropical cyclones.
  • https//www.facebook.com/NWSNHC/photos/a.126275484
  • https//www.facebook.com/NWSNHC/photos/a.126275484

Some social media tips
  • Find someone to get you started, dive in, and
    learn by doing
  • Be responsive sustained commitment to engagement
    required to become trusted source, build audience
  • Only re-tweet or re-publish trusted or verifiable
  • Mistakes will happen, just correct the record as
    quickly as possible watch out for fake pics
  • Provide as much temporal and geographic
    specificity as possible for weather info.
  • Engage with the community, share other voices
  • Integrate compelling visuals
  • Demonstrate passion for your subject matter, be
    creative, incorporate humor when appropriate

Closing thoughts Embrace change
  • Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron on
    journalisms transition from print to digital

The forces at work dont care about how we
prefer to do our jobs, how easily we adjust to
change, how much we have to learn. They dont
care about any extra workload. This
transformation is going to happen no matter what.
And there is only one realistic choice available
We can do what we must to adapt and ideally
thrive. Or not in which case we are choosing to
fail. I like to remind people what has happened
in only the last decade because its easy to
forget (http//www.washingtonpost.com/pr/wp/2015
_at_postbaron on Twitter
  • High-speed broadband became pervasive only in
    2004, 2005, making possible the communications we
    take for granted today. It allowed photos to load
    fast and instant viewing of videos and it
    allows mobile connection to the web. Google
    didnt go public until 2004. Today, there are
    more than 3 billion searches a day on Google.
    Facebook was founded in 2004. Now it has more
    than 1.3 billion monthly active users. YouTube
    was founded in 2005. More than 1 billion people
    now visit YouTube each month. Twitter was
    founded in 2006. A half-billion tweets are sent
    every day. Kindle was introduced in 2007. Three
    in 10 Americans now read an e-book. Apple
    introduced the iPhone in June, 2007. Today 2
    billion people worldwide use smartphones.
    Instagram was founded in 2009. Whatsapp was
    founded in 2009 and last year was sold for 19
    billion to Facebook. The iPad was introduced in
    January, 2010. Snapchat wasnt launched until
    2011. Its now valued at 10 billion or more.

  • Baron If this pace of change unnerves you,
    there is no consolation. Things will only get
    faster. And for those who resist the change
    rather than embrace it, there will be no
    forbearance or forgiveness. Their destiny is to
    be pushed aside and forgotten. That is the brutal

Thank you!
  • Contact
  • Jason Samenow, Weather Editor - Washington Post
  • samenowj_at_washpost.com - 202.334.9937
  • Blog http//www.washingtonpost.com/capitalweather
  • Twitter _at_capitalweather
  • Facebook http//www.facebook.com/capitalweather
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