As the jury for the Effective Content Strategy category of the WARC Awards is announced, Lucy Aitken interviews John Dokes, CMO, AccuWeather and the jury chair, finding out more about how the company uses partnerships with the likes of Spotify and Ford to deploy its own successful content strategy.

AccuWeather has become a tour de force in recent times. How much of this is down to its content partnerships?

Partnership is one of the core principles of our organisation. We work with 245 Fortune 500 businesses, as well as thousands of other businesses and government agencies globally. We combine our forecasts with historical and proprietary data from our partners. We expand the boundaries of weather forecast applications and weather-related data analytics to help businesses operate more effectively.

AccuWeather is always innovating, creating differentiated, contextually relevant weather-related content for audiences globally. For instance, indexes include the Arthritis, Asthma, and Migraine Forecast. Recently, we also launched AccuWeather’s Zika Mosquito Risk Index, which helps people in the US see the likelihood of mosquito infestations that could lead to greater risk of contracting the Zika virus.

Additionally, we have collaborated to create weather-driven music playlists and we have developed other innovations for the smart home, smart car and wearables. Our content partnerships meet the needs of our many distinct audiences. Of course, sometimes our content covers risks people may not even be aware of at all, such as the coming winter in Westeros.

Can you describe some of your content partnerships with Ford SYNC, Swirl and Spotify in more detail?

Working with Swirl, we deliver targeted messages and advertising based on in-store location and weather. Ford SYNC is another example of combining weather and location awareness. AccuWeather’s app on the Ford SYNC3 in-car communications and entertainment system provides users with AccuWeatherGo minute-by-minute forecasts that keep drivers informed of any potential hazards.

With Spotify, we analysed the impact that weather and mood have on the music people listen to. Users around the world can now tune into Climatune, a newly created channel, and listen to playlists generated for their exact locations and cities.

It has been an eventful year weather-wise in the US. Has this led to AccuWeather becoming a more trusted source of content?

The 2017 US Hurricane Season was one of the most destructive on record. AccuWeather’s successful forecasts compound the trust that we have built with our audience for more than 55 years. We have a team of passionate meteorologists dedicated to providing the most accurate forecasts to help people and businesses make decisions that save lives and protect property.

Nearly two billion people worldwide rely on AccuWeather for up-to-the-moment hurricane updates communicated promptly, clearly and with the most accuracy. In between storms, we help people plan their lives, protect their businesses, and get more from their day. During severe weather, our focus is on saving lives and giving people the critical information they need to make informed decisions about potential life-altering impacts and stay safe.

You are chairing the Effective Content Strategy category at this year’s WARC Awards. What does an effective content marketing strategy look like to you?

Content strategy is a flexible part of an overall marketing plan, allowing you to reach new users and expand your base while building on the strength of your brand’s core value.

In our awards, we quote the CMA’s definition of content: "Content is about sustained attention, gaining your customer's trust by drawing them into your brand's world for an enviable amount of time." How do you do this at AccuWeather?

Weather affects everything that we do and it is the one thing for which we cannot plan. It is always personal and always changing. We seize users’ attention and hold it by providing information and experiences they cannot find anywhere else presented in a dynamic and user-friendly format that is informative, easily understood, and compelling. By making ourselves available on every device and platform and with innovative and engaging content, our users access AccuWeather information multiple times daily, at every GPS location.

How should a content strategy be measured?

The fundamental metrics to examine are: what is the new audience or audiences being served and how well does the content partnership meet and exceed their expectations? The size of the audience and the strength of that audience’s identity that can be addressed with a new content offering must be considered. Ultimately, you know that you are achieving something new when you gain and retain a new group of users and see that new audience grow.

What advice would you give to entrants?

Content partnerships are opportunities for innovative thinking. They are a chance to reach new audiences, extend your brand, and serve your existing audience better with something new. Ideally, brand collaborations should be a good fit for your existing brand, but do not discount partnerships that can take your brand in a completely new direction that has not been previously considered. Ultimately, if you demonstrate value to your audience, the reward will be increased attraction and stickiness.

The 2018 WARC Awards, a global search for next-generation effectiveness ideas, are now open for entries until 12 February 2018. There are four categories:

  • Effective Innovation
  • Effective Use of Brand Purpose
  • Effective Content Strategy
  • Effective Social Strategy.

Like all WARC Awards programmes, entry is free.