Jackets off, AMA members! Chief Meteorologist James Spann joined the American Marketing Association — Birmingham Chapter this past Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the October Signature Series luncheon. Like the weather, the marketing field can change at any moment, so it’s important to learn how to proactively read the signals and know how to communicate effectively to your audience.
Spann has over 40 years of experience in broadcast television weather and has served as Chief Meteorologist for ABC 33/40 for 22 years. Throughout his career, he has earned several awards such as “Broadcaster of the Year” by the National Weather Association, the “Award for Broadcast Meteorology” by the American Meteorological Society and an Emmy for “Best Television Weather Anchor” while also being elected to the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle. Spann holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of West Alabama while also being in the hall of fame of both the University of Alabama School of Communication and Theta Tau professional engineering fraternity.
Spann also teaches third grade science to local students during his free time along with many volunteer opportunities in his community.
During the luncheon, Spann gave a recollection of the devastating EF-4 tornado that struck Lee County on Sunday, March 3, 2019. A rain-wrapped tornado with maximum winds of 170 mph wrecked communities south of Opelika on a 27-mile path that stretched 1,600-yards wide. There were 23 fatalities and 90 injuries as a result of the terrible storm.
“The science was sound, the warnings worked as they should, but we needed better communication.”James Spann, ABC 33/40
Spann explained that Lee county wasn’t in his “designated market area” so why spend eight hours covering this storm wrecking one county?
“Because it’s my duty,” said Spann. Spann explained the great responsibility those who operate social media wield and showcased the reach of his personal accounts. He explained that he has a platform that reaches thousands of Alabama residents — some who may not own a television who are in the path of this storm.
Spann’s current social media following totals to over 1 million users between his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. On any given week his posts reach over 8 million users at a time. The day of the March 3 tornado, Spann reached over 1 million Facebook users with his live coverage of a storm outside of his market.
“The secret to social media is that you are always there and that’s why I’m never off the air,” said Spann. He explained that as a public servant, he is always tuned in to his audience due to the fact that weather and social media never sleeps. He works tirelessly to establish relationships with his followers when the weather is good so that when times of crisis arise, they know they have a dependable news source to keep them updated at all times.
“You see, marketing is all about being connected to the people you serve. Consultants are great, but you aren’t marketing to consultants. Get out in the field.”James Spann, ABC 33/40
Spann knew the day of the March 3 tornado that he would reach four times more people through social media than the television broadcast audience. He also stressed the importance of diversifying content due to the different demographics that are present on each platform. “Saying the right thing isn’t enough anymore, you have to know your audience,” emphasized Spann.
He concluded with the lessons he learned personally after the catastrophic events of April 27, 2011, where a series of tornados forever altered the people and state of Alabama. He explained that marketing, to him, is the difference between crisis and safety for his followers. They depend on his information whether they are his “customer” or not. He stressed the importance of knowing your audience members and truly caring about their well-being. That’s successful marketing.
“Your job as a marketer is to be a servant,” said Spann.
Learn more about Spann’s professional profile at the ABC 33/40 website or follow him on his social media accounts.