Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What's the difference between the Bureau of Meteorology and a movie star?

Why is it that movie and sports stars, who are already earning millions for their public performances, feel the need to lend their reputations to endorse products such as lipstick, running shoes and advanced hair restoration treatments?

Of course there's the money and the extra public exposure to build their celebrity status and it helps stars leverage their reputations to support important causes, influencing the views of millions - but besides these obvious rewards, why would they behave in such a manner?

I'm sure this is a question often pondered at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), who own the most trafficked government website in Australia (based on the Hitwise data I've seen).

From visiting the BOM's site I don't know if they've successfully answered this question as yet.

The BOM site is a tour-de-force of weather information. From the homepage it's possible to literally take Australia's temperature - and check if it's raining outside too!

For the average citizen, this wealth of meteorological information is vitally important for starting those awkward conversations with strangers, "Nice weather we're having - I've just checked the BOM website and it's 30 degrees outside".

For many other Australians this information is vital to their planning and financial wellbeing. Farmers rely on this information to make decisions on planting, harvesting and water use. Sailors and fishermen need to know the latest conditions at sea. Aviators need to check the winds before they take to the skies.

All of this information is needed by citizens on a daily basis - so it's no wonder that the BOM's site manages to consistently reach more Australians each day than other government website juggernauts, such as the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink or Australia.gov.au.

But do they really leverage these visitors well?

At a second glance at the BOM homepage, there's a small area promoting the BOM's 100 year anniversary and a couple of links to allow people to learn more about meteorology.

There's also a small link at the bottom of the page (below the fold) to the Australian government locator service (AGLS) and links to the BOM's Department, to Australia.gov.au (but named 'Federal Government') and to the Prime Minister's website.

However there's no links to other government services that would be of use to the many sailors, farmers and aviators visiting the BOM's site.

This is the difference between the BOM and a movie star.

The movie star leverages their relationship with their fans to present them with appropriate products and services that may be of interest to them.

The BOM misses a major trick in joined-together government by not doing the same with services across the public sphere, and then using these connections to further increase its own star appeal and audience.

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