It’s happened to just about everyone in the industry. Every detail of your outdoor event, right down to the last color-coded napkin, is in place when the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse—and panic sets in. If you’ve been there before, we feel you. But the fact is, event marketers don’t have to endure this kind of torture in the wake of severe weather anymore. Advances in technology are making it easier to plan for and react to weather events well before they strike.
Currently leading the way is Max Engage with Watson, an augmented intelligence platform created by IBM-owned The Weather Company. The platform has the ability to automatically detect weather events, create personalized videos related to those events and intelligently deliver the content to the right audience at the right time. It’s the kind of tool event marketers have long awaited, and has the potential to become an essential part of event safety strategies in the months to come. To get an idea of just how Max Engage works its magic, we spoke to Bill Dow, head of media solutions at The Weather Company. Following is an excerpt from our conversation.
Event Marketer: What kind of weather events does Max Engage monitor for?
Bill Dow: Max Engage is like a virtual meteorologist that monitors weather situations that impact businesses or events. It can monitor if the temperature is going to reach greater than 90 degrees during the event. It can be monitoring for heavy precipitation if there’s a flooding concern, or high winds… And, of course, lightning is critical. So it will monitor lightning, and if lightning starts approaching the event within a certain radius, then it can send an alert.
EM: Are safety alerts an important part of the platform?
BD: That’s one of the core functions of Max Engage. It automatically creates content that will inform either event management or the attendees what the situation is. So, in extreme heat, it can create an hour-by-hour graphic that says exactly what the temperature is going to be during the event. Then it can go a step further—it actually creates content that will inform the attendee or event management what the next action is that you should take.
EM: And what kind of actions does Max Engage recommend in the event of severe weather?
BD: In the case of this heat example, it can send a short video clip that explains the types of things you should consider in extreme heat. [It’ll tell you] to make sure that you drink lots of fluids, wear light clothing, maybe even send locations of cooling stations that might be at the event so that you know where to go. That’s a really critical part of the solution.
EM: How does the platform ensure the appropriate attendees or event managers receive safety communications?
BD: It’s about delivering the message and targeting only the people that are going to be impacted. That means putting in geofencing and targeting right to the event. And part of the solution is that we can send this content to a mobile device, we can embed this experience in an existing mobile app, to other sites or on social channels. So you can get the message out to all the people that need to get this information.
EM: How do you know attendees will be open to receiving that information?
BD: Weather is a daily habit. Ninety percent of all U.S. adults consume weather on a weekly basis. So, you can use that as a way to reach fans at these events.
EM: How is Max Engage different from other kinds of weather-based technology, like mobile apps?
BD: I think this is unique in the way that it can publish and push these alerts with this rich content that explains exactly how to take action. It’s not just an app with a forecast or a map with radar on it. It’s actually giving you information so that you can make a decision on what actions to take based upon that particular weather situation. And that can be in the form of a graphic, a text or a short video.
EM: How can event marketers make the most of the platform?
BD: Weather can be used as a promotional tool because of that interest in weather by people in general. We found through a study we did that people find weather alerts useful. When they get one, 67 percent click on it. Just by updating [attendees] on weather conditions for the event, you can drive them to promotions at the event that are related to that weather. So, if it’s an outdoor event in the winter and it’s going to be really cold, maybe you have a winterwear promo that goes along with it that [consumers] might be able to purchase. It’s a great way to promote events and drive more engagement from fans.
Photo courtesy: The Weather Company