Weathering the storm: Emergency preparedness from The Weather Company CMO Randi Stipes

How the most popular weather forecaster thinks about communications and outreach

An image of a storm in an article about emergency preparedness for communicators

With climate emergencies and damaging weather events on the rise, communicators at every organization must be ready when unexpected moments turn their employees’ and customers’ lives upside down.

And what better time to understand our place in these challenges than Climate Week, when organizations and governments around the world examine the impact of human activity on the environment and address challenges that emerge from rising global temperature.

During Ragan’s Future of Communications Conference in Austin, Nov. 6–8, Randi Stipes, CMO at The Weather Company, will address how comms leaders and PR professionals can both prepare for the unexpected and be a voice of authority and support when disaster does strike. Read on for a preview of the topics she’ll explore

Emergency preparedness saves lives

The World Meteorological Organization reports that, though climate change has caused the quantity of weather-related disasters to increase “by a factor of five” in the past 50 years and economic losses are mounting, totaling $3.64 trillion, “the number of deaths has decreased almost three-fold.”

The difference: communications. The organization specifically said that early warning systems and disaster management protocols “have led to a significant reduction in mortality.”

As a result, preparation is mission-critical.

“Mother Nature reminds us daily of weather’s volatility, and how severe situations can happen anywhere, anytime,” Stipes said. “But, while the weather changes, your core role and brand should not. The work must be put in well before natural disaster strikes, so that you’re establishing trust and credibility ahead of the moments when people need you most.”

Few organizations understand this as profoundly as The Weather Company. With the power of the most reliable forecasting technology in the world behind it, The Weather Company positions emergency preparedness at the center of its organization, while also keeping employees and the public aware and ready.

Before and during emergency conditions, the brand reaches people through instant notifications, TV, email, radio, online newspapers and more to maximize reach. (For a more detailed look at its approach, the company broke down its response protocols to the 2021 tornado outbreak that became the deadliest on record in December.)

Communicators in other industries can take notes from these strategies, reaching customers and employees across as many available touchpoints as possible during emergencies to keep people informed of policies and resources. Having protocols and templates in place will allow comms professionals to deploy this messaging quickly when a crisis situation arises.

Making your organization heard among the storm

Another aspect of emergency preparedness is striking the right tone and showing up in not just the right places, but in the right ways.

Weather emergencies offer communicators the opportunity to show how their organizations align their actions to their values.

“Your response needs to reflect your company’s mission, your brand’s values and every action and touchpoint must back up that promise — rain or shine,” Stipes said.

Between emergencies, The Weather Company focuses on remaining an authoritative source of ongoing information through what Stipes has called the “Power Play,” which has three prongs:

  • Relevancy: communicating the relevance of weather and its reporting to every part of consumers’ day.
  • Influence: helping the public understand forecasting’s role in influencing their decisions.
  • Humanity: doing the right thing and acting in ways the organization can be proud of.

Leading with empathy, understanding and flexibility is especially critical to internal communicators during emergencies, while mixternal and external communicators can take these moments to support their communities and customers.

This may mean being ready to support disaster relief efforts, organizing drives to help local communities, providing financial guidance for impacted employees and customers and granting staff the grace to navigate what may be the most challenging moments in their lives — or all of the above.

Beyond these moments, that also means ensuring  employees and external audiences alke see your organization’s communications as a source of authority and trustworthy information.

Learn more from Stipes at Ragan’s Future of Communications Conference, Nov 6–8, in Austin.

Jess Zafarris is a content director, editor, journalist, speaker, social media engagement strategist and creator. Her 13 years of experience in media included such roles as the Director of Content at Ragan Communications, Audience Engagement Director at Adweek, and Content Strategy Director and Digital Content Director for Writer’s Digest and Script Mag. Follow her on Twitter/Threads/IG and TikTok @jesszafaris  and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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