5 Things . . .

Hi!  My name is Spencer Adkins and I’m the chief meteorologist at WOWK TV in Charleston, WV and WVNS TV in Beckley, WV.  It’s a real honor to get to do some blogging here on Digital Meteorologist!

You know all the cool kids are posting click-grabbing entries that start with “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Jello,” or “14 Reasons Coffee Is Good AND Bad For You.”  I promise you get this piece in one click.    

I was recently given an assignment to write out my list of “5 Things” I’d like to do this year with our weather department.  My list was BIG.  I mean, if the hypothetical is that money is not an object, then turn in a BIG list.  Of course, money is always an object, but I felt better anyhow.  This process got me to thinking about weather as an ENTERPRISE.  If we had a chance to do “5 Things” that improve the entire enterprise, what would we write down?  (Oh yes, he’s going with the audience participation pitch.)

That’s not as easy to simply jot down as you think it may be.  It’s one thing to figure out I need this or that at the office, but if there were a few things we could do En masse, what would those things be?

I found 5 areas that I would like to work on to contribute to a “better weather enterprise” in the digital realm.  These are just my own opinions and I offer them humbly as such:

1)      Customer Service.  As Kevin Selle, the proprietor of this blog says, “Partly cloudy and 75 is out there anywhere you look.”  What can we do to add service to our audience base?  Is it a new blog? Is it a stream of constant updates on a local app? Even more social media? Begging for more airtime on TV?  Get more time to explain warnings and watches and advisories?  I think we do need to “fight back” a bit against the notion that we’re “interrupting” programs or that “we have apps for warnings” when severe weather hits.  We’re here to help protect people.  Let us!

2)      Establishing the value of our weather products.  I don’t mean another promo that says, “We at Channel XYZ are the best because these three random viewers will now say so in a soundbite.”  I mean we need to find ways to speak to people before, during and after events to let them know we understand their challenges when weather impedes.  We have answers and we can help.  We need to politely acknowledge that our product does come with expertise.  We also need to speak to times when we are wrong but add value by showing what went wrong.


(Don’t do it this way)  ^^^

It’s one thing to just say, “we missed it,” but we can show our value by showing we figured out what went wrong and we can explain it.  In other words, don’t back down from being an expert and if you biff it, own it, and show your expertise by being able to mop up your own mess.  That definitely sets us apart as a business.

3)       Listen to the audience but listen to the right people in the right places.  Explained: anyone can zip off a nastygram on Facebook or drill you on Twitter.  Mr. Internet Tough Guy loves to do that.  In a recent Google Plus Hangout, noted meteorologist and social media maven Dr. Ryan Maue said he prefers to keep his social media efforts public.  If he’s going to say something, he says it out in the open and with as much respect as he can.  My added thought is, if you get 32 Facebook comments saying “you suck,” try not to take it personally.  (Easier said than done.)  Investigate what’s behind those messages.  Then re-engage with your own reply, in public.  This forces you to think carefully about what you want to say.  If someone thanks you, thank them back.  If someone is just randomly rude, don’t waste a bunch of time on it.  It’s one thing to be humbled by Nature but life is too short for trolls.  Fair criticism CAN have harsh tones.  The key is to see if there’s some truth to it or if it’s just “noise” as Chris Allen of WBKO calls it.  Avoid noise.

4)      Collaboration.  (Insert Vanilla Ice: “All right, Stop! Collaborate and listen…”)  I’m big into collaboration of late.  We need more of it in our business.  The HotAirWeather.com site is a product of collaboration.  We don’t make a dime and that’s not the intent.  The intent was to simply talk about weather, usually about operational forecasts, and share ideas and forecast information.  You might say it’s a little “Inside Baseball,” and I say: guilty.  But the end result is still talking about what’s going to happen next.  Some TV station groups do this already with group blogs and web sites and they do at least sell ads.  I don’t work in a group that large.  Interestingly, my station managers have embraced this notion of using Internet technology to expand the reach of our discussions.  They even run clips of our YouTube/Google Plus Hangouts on the newscast!  I personally like collaboration because I am energized by the sheer brainpower of so many other people in our business.  If you like going to the NWA or AMS conference because you learn things from people, why not create that atmosphere when YOU want to?  Reach out to others.  Bounce ideas off of them.  Of course the guy or gal at your competitor isn’t going to share their forecasting tips with you, but maybe someone in your network will and maybe you can take that and actually put some of that exchange on the air or on your blog or your website.  Tip: don’t just approach someone to “pick their brain” – ask to share ideas and then bring some ideas to the conversation.  THAT’S collaboration!  Collaboration can extend across TV stations to working with established weather blogs to local NWS offices to researchers.  You name it.

5)      Learn more.  I need to.  Definitely!  Pick your topic: forecasting, radar, severe storm environments, NWS criteria, tropical meteorology, climate change, snow forecasting, NWP, social media, communication theory, marketing, how ratings work, etc.,  Find something that interests you that day and take it from there, pursuing gaining knowledge the way you best learn.

OK so that’s my 5 Things.  Now… what’s yours?

Spencer Adkins

(#6: Kevin has been teaching me the art of “less is more” in design… I need to learn to apply that to writing this year too.)

About Spencer Adkins

I'm the chief meteorologist for WOWK TV CBS 13 in WV, OH and KY. Broadcaster since age 17. Constantly working on ways to reach and grow audiences and have fun along the way.
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