Communicating in partnership
The Met Office has a strong tradition of working with national weather services and academic institutions, both in the UK and abroad. Today, we are exploring innovative new partnerships that are taking our messages to a whole new audience.
Visit the Met Office website today and you may be in for a big surprise. The traditional weather information you might expect is there - such as tips on what to do in a flood or severe weather warnings. But there's also a whole host of new topics that break the mould. Recent posts include the Four Footwear Trends to Kick Start your Autumn, The World's Best Surfing Destinations, and Take a Bank Holiday Breather with the National Trust.
So what's it all about? As Katie Hickmott, Partnership Communications Manager at the Met Office explains, this new content is the result of an expanding stable of exciting partnerships - both with government and voluntary organisations that include the Environment Agency, Public Health England, Red Cross and Age UK, but also consumer brands such as National Trust, Helly Hansen and Go Outdoors.
The power of stories
If the web traffic statistics are anything to go by, combining serious content with more light-hearted stories tends to engage audiences - particularly if those stories are about people. For example, one blog post by the Salvation Army about how they help the homeless over winter was hugely popular.
For the partners, the Met Office offers a strong, well-established reputation as an industry authority, as well as enviable reach. The Met Office website is well visited, while the blog and social media sites attract a very wide audience.
The benefits to the Met Office are equally compelling. There are some audiences we have difficulty accessing - most particularly the younger generation. Pairing up with alternative brands puts us in touch with those audiences almost instantly.
One example is a campaign that is currently being worked on with retailer Helly Hansen. The Met Office has become Helly Hansen's international rain expert and we are creating video content which will be shared on social media. It's a format that's far more youth-friendly than traditional blog posts - as Katie Hickmott says: "We are generating more digital content such as infographics, animations and videos that appeal to a younger audience."
Other examples include working with the National Trust - which accesses a whole other set of audiences such as young families - and a series of prize giveaways from various partners that have proved very popular on Twitter.
A strategic approach
As Katie describes, "Once someone's worked with us they stay on our radar so our pool of partners keeps growing. Part of my job is evaluating the partnerships and making sure we're both getting something out of the relationship."
This involves taking a strategic approach from the start: setting objectives, establishing metrics for evaluating progress and being crystal clear about what each partner wants from the relationship. This is a route the Met Office has already established with its new corporate charity, RNLI, and we will both soon be rolling out a communications programme. So far, the Met Office's partnerships have worked at an organisation level - but the hope is to go one step further and make it personal.
Our Ambassadors Programme links individuals from partner organisations, former Met Office staff and alumni, and public figures with an environmental background. The ambassadors will benefit from being part of a community and receive news and insights from the Met Office in advance so that they can then share with their own audiences. It's an approach that reflects the more personal nature of communicating fostered by social media - and will enable the Met Office to break more new ground and establish ever more innovative relationships with people and organisations around the globe.
Get ready for winter
Every year, the Met Office teams up with the Cabinet Office and other partners to launch and manage the Get Ready for Winter campaign. The campaign is centred on a dedicated website that delivers crucial weather information alongside content from partners about health, well-being and staying safe.
The campaign runs from October to March, and last year included content from over 20 different contributors such as the Highways England, Salvation Army, Mind and the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
At the beginning of the season, the Met Office tries to meet all of the people that are going to contribute to establish content: the aim is to get every partner to participate in some way. While the Cabinet Office manages the campaign, the Met Office has editorial control and sets the content schedules.
The Get Ready for Winter campaign has been running for several years and its popularity is increasing. Last year's website achieved over 300,000 views - almost double the year before. Its most popular blogs covered how to drive safely in winter, common myths about snow, and how cold weather affects us.
The Met Office is using the insights gleaned from the previous year to inform this year's campaign - and build further on its success.