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Creating innovative content

The nation’s appetite for weather is ideally suited to our modern world where information flows constantly. With an increasing number of outlets for weather and climate information, these are exciting and challenging times for the Met Office Content team which ensures the daily weather story is told clearly, in different ways to different people.

Traditionally newspapers and TV gave us our daily news and weather fix. Now the sources are numerous; from social media apps and websites on our smartphones, desktops and even watches, to rolling news channels and huge digital information boards that flash up weather warnings and city forecasts. These deliver information; sometimes headline grabbing, relevant, occasionally detailed, and often simply eye-catching.

Producing this takes some planning, as Head of Content, Sarah Fysh, points out: “We have a talented, experienced and dedicated team that includes designers, editors, presenters and technical studio crew, all who understand the necessity for clear yet engaging content.”

The daily outlook

After the daily 9 am Chief Forecaster’s briefing, the editorial meeting is held. Attended by a range of staff including meteorologists, graphic designers, communications and social media experts, it’s a creative, lively affair.

The weather story is broken down into themes, key messages and longer term trends. Everyone chews over the most effective way to communicate and tailor the story for each channel. Similar attention is given to global weather, seasonal trends and upcoming weather-dependent events.

Sarah explains that this meeting helps crystallise the weather and climate stories of the day: “If there’s anything significant affecting the UK that will be the focus, but global weather also plays a key role in our output. We not only create content for our own channels but for syndication partners such as the Mirror Online and the Telegraph.”

The many layers to a story

Cyclone Enawo, which hit Madagascar in early March, highlights how a weather story structures and drives clear and informative content. Output included a detailed presenter-led video forecast, which was used on YouTube and sent to syndication partners. The Media Services Team (MST) produced a short animation zooming from the Indian Ocean into Madagascar, adding model winds, rain and cloud – all created on the Visual Cortex weather graphics systems and shared on Facebook. In addition an image-based weather explainer highlighting the difference between hurricanes, typhoons and cyclone was posted on the Met Office Twitter account.

To plan future content, the team has a grid of seasonal weather topics and upcoming public events. For example, explanatory videos including pollen, UV and summer heat will go live through spring.

Joining the conversation

Different formats fit different platforms, so the team uses different outlets; Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Twitter lends itself to simpler, eye-catching graphics or brief animations. These also work well on YouTube along with more detailed forecasts and presentations. A variety of videos and infographics are also produced for Met Office partners, who have branded content on their own channels.

“Sharing content across platforms means we reach many different audiences,” explains Sarah. “We know that not everyone uses every platform, but conversations happen on all of them – and we’re part of that. It’s important to remain the authoritative voice in these conversations so people know they can trust our information.” Unsurprisingly, audience numbers spike when there’s severe weather on the way. However people also respond well to explainers that give a more in-depth look at weather. As Sarah points out, “We don’t just tell people what’s happening, but why.”

Going live

The Met Office hosted a first live broadcast on Facebook this January before a potentially disruptive snowfall in the UK. More than 2,000 people tuned in and during the following days the total views peaked at well over 400,000. This relatively new platform holds exciting possibilities for the Met Office, as it focuses on delivering the latest weather information, warnings and advice.

“We’re at the heart of the story and Facebook Live enables us to leverage this in a way that really engages with our audience. It gives people behind-the-scenes access to our operations centre with real-time updates on how the story’s developing,” says Sarah.

Launching new services

The Met Office was one of the chosen launch partners for Twitter Moments – a feature bringing together threads of tweets to form a story. Since then, the Content team has provided Moments at least twice a week highlighting the weekly outlook and weekend forecast. James Glynn from the Twitter Moments team tweeted “a special shout out to @metoffice who make awesome, graphics-rich and informative Moments week in, week out.”

The Met Office also launched a Snapchat channel on World Met Day on 23 March encouraging subscribers to snap and share pictures of clouds.

Lights, camera, action

On top of online content, the Met Office works with all UK broadcasters, through storm naming or providing weather data and information. For example, Welsh language channel S4C uses Met Office weather data and graphics to produce its own forecasts. Sky is now taking our flagship Public Weather Media Service (PWMS) which includes Met Office data, warnings, guidance and expertise to bring weather forecasting to their audiences across multiple platforms.

Other broadcasters, such as Channel 5 and British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS), air forecasts produced and presented entirely by the Met Office. A full production studio has been set up at the Met Office with a dedicated team of experienced presenters.

Before joining the Content team, Clare Nasir presented for ITN, GMTV, BBC and 5 News, Aidan McGivern for ITV and Alex Deakin for the BBC. These well-known presenters write, produce and front daily weather forecasts, explainers and Facebook Live.

The MST team also plays an important part in broadcasting for the Met Office website and BFBS, as well as producing social media posts. A great success story for the Met Office’s mission to develop in-house talent has been the presenting debuts of Chris Page and Ellie Creed on Channel 5.

The Content team has evolved significantly over the past two years. Output continues to increase, with a firm vision – its benchmark remains quality and creatively driven. Supported by a wealth of Met Office expertise the team is proving themselves to be heads above an increasingly crowded world of weather information. 

Reaching new heights

The annual Television Radio Industry Club (TRIC) awards ceremony in March honoured achievement in television and radio. This year, as the UK’s national weather service, we sponsored the weather presenter category. Shortlisted were ITV’s Laura Tobin and Sky’s Nazaneen Ghaffar, and our huge congratulations go to BBC’s Carol Kirkwood who won the award for best TV weather presenter. Dee Cotgrove, Met Office Executive Head of Media and Communications, said, “We recognise what a challenging role being a presenter can be and the Met Office operates at the heart of the television industry supporting talented presenters who are vital to delivering our forecasts and warnings.”