3 Tips for Crafting a Persuasive On-Air Forecast
The #1 reason people watch local news is for the weather. Pew research found 70% watched daily for their forecast. As a TV meteorologist I am still shocked by this number. I would think that TV viewers would have adapted to getting the forecast off their phone, looking it up online when they wake up, or even asking Alexa. The information will mostly be the same, but there is one big difference in the method they chose. A human connection with the on-air personality. All the broadcasters must do now is make sure their message is heard.
I have worked in news for over 15 years. The first thing news management tells its employees is the dress code. The audience is looking at those on air and if their dress is too tight, jacket is too frumpy, or skirt is too short, the forecast one is saying will not be heard. The snow forecast “beginning at noon and lasting util 8 PM”, will be lost in the peripheral route of the elaboration and likelihood model. The viewer is too busy looking at what the broadcaster is wearing instead of listening to the forecast. (I have been told this at least once a year, but now I think of it as a compliment to some cute outfits. I should also add that each city is different from what they think is appropriate attire. Jonathan Novack says WSVN in Miami is okay with outfits for the going out to the nightclub, and KSWB in San Diego likes everything high and tight according to Ellina Abovian. Maybe they don’t care about the message understood and they just count eyeballs on the screen.)
Here is an example. Viewers in San Diego had no issues but Baltimore could not stop staring at my fitted dress. It has now been classified as a distraction. Can you process the forecast, or are you glued to the dress?
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News directors love live shots. As a meteorologist I have been assigned to go live from the fair, outdoor concerts, and amusement parks. This may put us in the community and make for lively TV, but isn’t this just as distracting as long, jingly earrings? The audience is not listening to the “1–3 inches of rain on the way”, the environment is distracting from processing the information. Yet again the forecast is going around the peripheral route while the environment is a distraction with kids jumping up and down in the background. (I do have to say that when severe weather is in the forecast, the live shot is called off so the information can properly be consumed from the quiet studio.)
Here is another example: Can you focus on the forecast or are you confused what this has to do with weather?
People want to know the weather not only to pick out what to wear tomorrow, but to keep their family safe from slippery roads, dangerous waves, and obviously tornadoes. In order to keep the community safe the forecast must be processed on the central route according to the elaboration likelihood model. Meteorologists need to sound credible and look credible (the little AMS or NWA seal next to your name is a bonus). The meteorologist’s mood needs to be calm when relaying tornado warnings and what cities the twister is headed to. Limit distractions (from stylish clothes, big jewelry, even false lashes according to talent consultant, Allison Ross).
Overall, if one wants to succeed on air they need viewers to like AND trust them. Keep the message short, flirt with the camera a little (everyone loves a smile), and avoid anything that could be a distraction. Let people see you, but also hear and process the information.