Oklahoma is known for its fickle weather. On any given day, the dress code could call for T-shirts and shorts or jackets and scarves. That makes meteorologists in the Sooner State huge local celebrities.
For over 40 years, Gary England was the chief meteorologist at KWTV in Oklahoma City. The New York Times dubbed him the “Weather God of Oklahoma City.” He was also known for his colorful commentaries and one-liners. Take a look.
I had the honor of working with him. I always respected his ability to put public safety first, while also injecting a charming sense of humor during severe weather. I realized he exemplifies the seven C’s of communication, a checklist of basic principles to effectively communicate with audiences.
The first principle of communicating effectively is to establish credibility. During severe weather season, meteorologists are the viewers’ lifelines. People monitor the weather to decide whether to stay put or take shelter.
Gary’s knowledge about literally every Oklahoma county demonstrated his love for the state. His calm demeanor and accurate forecasts over four decades meant that when he said, “Take your precautions immediately and seek shelter,” people did. He owned his message, and viewers listened.
Gary produced nearly 30,000 forecasts and he always spoke with simplicity. He was candid and provided background needed for context to keep his audience weather aware without complicated jargon.
Another principle of effective communication is to have meaning behind each message. Gary did his homework, and no matter how crazy the storm was, his priority was saving lives.
He propelled his content through innovative vision. In the 1980s, he was the first on-air meteorologist to alert viewers of a possible tornado using commercial Doppler radar. He also contributed to the invention of the First Warning graphic. The map pops up in the corner of a TV and is now commonly used to show weather alerts without interrupting a program. Gary stayed on top of the game and ahead of competitors.
His ability to stand out gained the trust of TV viewers for generations.
When multiple tornadoes touched down in a single day in 2009, Gary described the seriousness of the weather event in a matter-of-fact way. He was calm under pressure and reminded folks to take shelter only when necessary. His demeanor helped people decipher whether the storm was an urgent threat or a just a warning.
His delivery and conversations with storm chasers were so consistent they led to the creation of the “Gary England Drinking Game.” Viewers playing the game had to drink every time he mentioned key phrases like his signature sign off, “We’ll keep you advised,” or frequently cited towns.
6) Capability of the Audience
Gary knew how to communicate on his audience’s level. His delivery was conversational, as if his viewers were his nextdoor neighbors. One of his catchiest one-liners was, “Jump back, throw me down, Loretta, it’s Friday night in the big town!” Although he would never reveal who Loretta was, his folksy style was relatable and memorable to his audience.
Gary had a legendary career in television. But he realized it is no longer the only way to reach a broad audience. He maintains a strong presence in the meteorology world. From videos to social media, his messages and personality live on