WeatherBug is a free downloadable desktop software application that collects, analyzes and distributes live local weather information and alerts. Since its debut in 2000, the service has attracted more than 50 million users and now regularly ranks among the top 20 online media properties, according to comScore Media Metrix. But WeatherBug is not stopping there. It’s eager to attract even more users.
The WeatherBug application and services offer consumers tremendous benefits, including life-saving severe weather alerts. However, users must download and register the product to fully experience it. This requirement is becoming an increasingly challenging hurdle as people become more skittish about installing software on their computers. CooperKatz and WeatherBug successfully used the blogosphere to build trust. We put the company’s people at eye level with influencers, established greater transparency and virally spread the word that WeatherBug offers a high value service.
The PR team’s main objectives were to: drive WeatherBug new user acquisition, increase WeatherBug usage among existing users, position WeatherBug as a 21st Century weather media company, increase overall awareness for WeatherBug and its services among media and influencers and assuage some of the consumer fears about downloading software applications
Given the broad interest in weather, CK and WeatherBug devised a strategy to use blogs as a means to get influencers recommending the product. CK and WeatherBug believe in the inherent value of friend-of-a-friend or FOAF marketing, the philosophy that users who hear about WeatherBug from an “online friend” or blogger they trust are far more likely to use the product and recommend it to others.
Rather than simply pitching bloggers to write about WeatherBug, CK encouraged its client to fully jump into the new medium by blogging several major weather events like tornadoes, hurricanes and others. Through blogging, we counseled, WeatherBug could expose the passionate personalities behind its service, convey the great lengths they go to cover these events, converse with influencers and spread the word virally.
Working closely with the company’s meteorological and marketing teams, CK built, launched and promoted a series of event blogs written by WeatherBug staffers and tied to pivotal weather events. In each case, we also developed and distributed a press release announcing the blogs and conducted traditional media outreach. However, the core focus was to generate significant inbound blog links.
The first WeatherBug blog - the WeatherBug Groundhog Blog (http://weatherbug.blogs.com/groundhog) - debuted in January. It chronicled two WeatherBug meteorologists as they journeyed to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The small town, home of Punxsutawney Phil, is the groundhog capital of the world and the center of everyone’s attention on Groundhog Day. Each day the team blogged about their experiences at length and frequently posted photos.
This event was followed by a late-spring effort, the WeatherBug Storm Chase blog (http://weatherbug.blogs.com/stormchase). This blog chronicled a team of meteorologists who embarked on a tornado chasing trip around the Midwest. This time, however, WeatherBug branched out by inviting a 5th grade elementary school teacher from Marathon, NY to join them. The award-winning educator was selected after a nationwide search for educators who were involved in WeatherBug’s academic weather program, WeatherBug Achieve, which provides schools with weather equipment and curriculum development.
These efforts proved so successful that WeatherBug launched a series of storm weblogs as part of its comprehensive on-the-scene coverage of Hurricanes Charley (http://weatherbug.blogs.com/charley/), Frances (http://weatherbug.blogs.com/frances/), Ivan (http://weatherbug.blogs.com/ivan/) and Jeanne (http://weatherbug.blogs.com/jeanne/). Each blog had its own unique tone and was designed to encourage user-engagement. Over the course of two months, as the four hurricanes ravaged the southern states, the WeatherBug blogs became the company’s major out-bound communication vehicle.
WeatherBug is extremely popular among heavy online users. Bloggers, by their nature, also reach heavy online users. So we saw a natural opportunity to tie our program to the blogosphere.
For each blog CK pulled together a list of top webloggers who had a significant loyal following. CK recognized that the blogosphere is extremely viral in nature. When a big blogger “butterfly” flaps its wings, it can easily ripple across the Internet, potentially influencing thousands of smaller sites to post their own links.
To undertake this significant effort CK used a mix of new and old tools, including Google, Bloglines, Technorati, Feedster and PubSub to find relevant bloggers who write about media, weather, news, software and technology. This effort also included journalists who blog as part of their official jobs. We then assessed the importance of each blog by looking at who links to them, studying their “Google PageRank” and by subscribing and carefully reading their RSS news feeds.
CK also recognized that the campaign might well be the first time such high-profile weather events were blogged in real-time. Given that bloggers typically like to talk about, what else, blogging, we also compiled a list of people who write about the new medium. The team continually adjusted its research efforts throughout the campaign in order to effectively target webloggers in specific geographical regions.