While I was at Gnomedex in Seattle, I met with blogger and PR maven Steve Rubel (CooperKatz & Company) and his client, Chris Sloop, a founder and the CTO of WeatherBug. Steve believes that the Web is transforming the practice of his profession. He came up with 10 Commandments for PR professionals in the age of participation, which includes sage advice such as commandments 7 through 9:
7. Thou shall embrace blogging – It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay. Be part of it.
8. Thou shall banish corporate speak – People want to hear from you in a human voice. Don’t hide behind corporate speak. It will soon sound like ye olde English.
9. Thou shall tell the truth – If you don’t tell the truth, it will come out anyway.
But the reason for our get together was to talk about some WeatherBug announcements. WeatherBug is the owner/operator of a weather network far bigger than the NOOA National Weather Service. In fact, NOAA is a client of WeatherBug, which has a proprietary weather network of 8,000 tracking stations and more than 1,000 cameras located at schools, TV stations and other facilities in the US. The company has about 200 employess and revenues of $50 million.
PR maven Steve Rubel and WeatherBug CTO Chris Sloop presenting at Gnomedex 2005
I got a preview of the news at dinner (paid for by Chris) with Steve, Chris, Steve Gillmor, Marc Canter, and J.D. Lasica, and then the following day Steve managed to catch flack from the Gnomedex crowd, turning his talk about"Tomorrow's Public Relations" into a press conference for WeatherBug. He was sort of violating one of his own commandments--#4, Thou shalt not be fake. Nonetheless, he and Chris weathered the storm (pun intended). One of the PR issues that Chris discussed was the perception that the WeatherBug desktop application (more than 66 million downloads) was spyware. Many, including myself, suggested that the company get rid of the 'bug' in Weatherbug. Chris likes the name (like a persistent logo on a TV screen) and he said changing the name would create just as much havoc among users as leaving it as is. OK, you've made up your mind.
The cool news for WeatherBug was an API, giving developers access to the data for building applications that integrate weather data and alerts. any developer to build rich applications that integrate live, local weather information and alerts. WeatherBug also has a "Backyard Network," which allows consumers to install a sophisticated weather station (for about $500), hook it up to a home automation system as well as share data with the extensive WeatherBug network. WeatherBug also will support RSS feeds by zipcode and have a Mac OS X version this year. Oh, I almost forgot--WeatherBug also has a fledgling blog. That said, the capabilities of WeatherBug and its weather station network are impressive. It would be good to see the company expand its footprint of tracking stations and data acquistion outside the US. Thanks to Steve for bringing WeatherBug to my attention...