Established in 1854, the Met Office has a long history of being a weather forecasting service focused on science and data. Transitioning the UK’s official national met service into the digital age was an exciting challenge, blending authority with a mix of interesting content. We chatted to Simon Swan, Digital Strategy and Transformation at the Met Office to hear about its approach to digital transformation and how it stands out from the crowd in such a crowded space.
Weather Storytelling – The Bread And Butter
Providing trusted authoritative content combined with “weather storytelling” has been a central part of Met Office’s strategy in building an online audience, and is key to connect with those interested in knowing more about the weather and climate. As weather data has become easier for the public to consume, whether via smartphone or desktop, finding a way to communicate weather and engage an audience has been vital. Before launching on social media, the Met Office looked at the best way it could add its unique and authoritative voice to a crowded space of online weather forecasting market. “We work with our forecasters, scientists, observers and the many other different departments that we have here at the Met Office, to provide trusted authoritative content around the weather”, Swan explains. Using this data, the Met Office is able to provide storytelling around the weather – “We answer questions such as ‘what is a rainbow?’ or ‘what is the impact of severe weather?’ This weather storytelling has seen some of the highest engagement levels for us”. The Met Office has also been able to effectively adapt its content to suit the multitudinal offerings of social media – “our social media team will analyse different social media, then fine-tune how we promote content to different social media channels, and work out which pieces of content drive the most engagement”. As well as the emphasis on storytelling, weather forecasts and keeping users updated on severe weather are key elements of the service. “Our customer service department are in the office 24/7, personally answering tweets that get sent in”. This kind of content, combined with an emphasis on informative weather storytelling, is what differentiates the Met Office.
Making Weather Relevant
Providing content that is seasonally relevant allows the Met Office to broaden its reach while engaging with event-goers. The Met Office has a history of providing specific weather forecasts for events such as Glastonbury and Wimbledon, and other live events across the UK. This involvement with seasonal high-reach events allows the Met Office to “ride relevant content in the context of weather, build relevancy through link building, and build syndication with other external organisations who want to partner with the Met Office.” Swan explains: “We looked at the content that we had on Glastonbury last year, and thought about how we could continue to innovate that content, whether it would be through infographics or three-day weather forecasts specific to the Glastonbury music festival – and then we’ll build out a theme around it”. Creating content around seasonal themes allows the Met Office to remain relevant, up-to-date, and provide a service that allows event-goers to get hold of the right information for where they’re going, easily accessible through desktop, mobile sites, or video forecasts.
“Joining The Dots” Between Departments
To help promote and drive the opportunities of digital, a digital academy has been created to provide a training program built on the Digital Principles of the Met Office. The academy aims to join the dots between the different departments. “We are bringing in groups of people to talk about digital transformation and digital marketing. How to understand your users and how to build a digital delivery culture, for example,” says Swan. “This brings to life the digital principles that have been introduced by our chief digital officer, and moves the organisation forward – it is much more effective than just having principles stuck on a wall.” This is a drive, he explains, to bring together the organisation and openly invite all departments within the organisation, from the meteorologists to the PR department. “The digital academy is about working laterally across the organisation, connecting different departments and sharing knowledge between them – this can then be optimised for the right channels by the digital team. Upskilling the organisation and keeping them in the loop of digital developments is also a key part of the program – “In terms of content marketing, departments can truly understand the value of their offering because when we are explaining to them the value of digital, we are upskilling the organisation rather than giving them a list of key words that we want content around”. Now seven months old, the academy continues to receive positive feedback, as different departments become more engaged with the digital principles of the Met Office.
By utilising the wealth of knowledge in its organisation to provide trusted, authoritative content, and creating storytelling content around the weather, the Met Office has been able to fill a gap in the market. Taking advantage of seasonal events allows it to remain relevant and reach a wider audience, and the development of the digital academy ensures the every department is fully on board with where the organisation wants to go digitally. Ensuring the whole organisation is coming together and working laterally will ensure The Met Office moves seamlessly into the digital age, taking full advantage of the wealth of information under its roof.