Interview of the month: Nina Kukkurainen, FMI
Nina Kukkurainen is the Director of Communications at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).
EMS Liaison Committee (EMS LC): How did you become involved in meteorology?
Nina Kukkurainen: I have always been interested in weather and climate, but this interest arose on a higher level when I started my work in the communications team of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in 2010. Since my background is in communications and not in meteorology, it has been really fascinating to learn about this complex topic which impacts everyone’s lives.
EMS LC: Where is Finnish Meteorological Institute based and how many people work there?
Nina Kukkurainen: The FMI headquarters are in Helsinki, Finland, and we also have offices in Kuopio, Rovaniemi and Sodankylä in Finland. In 2018 our headcount was 650. Our communications team of 5 people is located in our Helsinki headquarters. Our main areas of responsibility are media relations, science communications, internal communications and communications to the general public in Finland. We are also responsible for our web site and social media channels.
EMS LC: How is FMI connected to EMS?
Nina Kukkurainen: FMI is an Associate Member of the EMS.
EMS LC: If you were to describe FMI communications in one sentence, what would you say?
Nina Kukkurainen: In one sentence: “The FMI communications team supports the implementation of FMI’s strategy” but I would like to expand on that.
FMI makes observations, carries out research and provides services on weather, climate, sea and space for the safety and smooth operation of the society. The impact of FMI’s work materialises when our audiences, customers and stakeholders are aware of our services and products, feel that they are useful and get the information they need from us at a right time through the right channels. That is where the communications team steps in and supports our experts.
EMS LC: How does the communication team ensure there is effective science communication?
Nina Kukkurainen: One of our main tasks is to support FMI’s experts to communicate. Our collaboration with FMI experts is very active, which is something I’m very happy about!
In recent years we have focused on developing our science communications. Weather is always newsworthy and it has a natural interest amongst the general public. But communicating topics related to, for example, climate change, marine research, air quality or space and satellite technology require a different kind of approach than daily weather communications.
EMS LC: How strong is the relationship between the communications team and the Finnish media?
Nina Kukkurainen: We work very actively with the Finnish media. According to our media monitoring, about 60-70 FMI experts speak with journalists each quarter of a year. We publish press releases and news stories on weather, climate, sea and space-related topics, arrange interviews and meetings with journalists, and provide background information. We also arrange media training for our experts to help them speak to journalists, and provide support in defining the messages we wish to convey. Not only do we train our own experts, we have also arranged a training course for journalists on climate change every year since 2006. Our visibility in the Finnish media is very high and I think this is common to many NMSs.
EMS LC: What is the role of the communications team when a crisis occurs?
Nina Kukkurainen: When working in meteorology, preparedness for crisis or special situation communications is extremely important. Our communications team is responsible for crisis communications guidelines at FMI. We train for special situations every year and make sure that processes are in place, for example for extreme weather events taking place outside office hours or nuclear accidents. Hopefully, these will never occur.
EMS LC: Does the communications team have a role in internal communications?
Nina Kukkurainen: Internal communication is one of the most important aspects of our services. We are responsible for our intranet and provide content for it along with dozens of other experts at FMI. We support our colleagues in strategy communications, HR communications, and change communications to mention but a few.
EMS LC: What is the role of the communications team in maintaining the web site and using social media
Nina Kukkurainen: FMI’s web-site and social media channels are highly visible in Finland. At FMI we encourage our experts to be active on social media, which offers good platforms for interaction. Together with our IT personnel and subject matter experts we make sure that our website offers up-to-date and relevant information for our audiences.
EMS LC: Where do you see the greatest challenges for the meteorological and climatological communities in Europe/worldwide?
Nina Kukkurainen: I believe that we have a big challenge AND opportunity in communicating the impacts of the weather and climate change on the lives of people; for example parents making decisions on their children’s clothing for the day or business leaders and political decision makers making strategic decisions for the future of their businesses or society. This is the beauty of our field: we are working with a topic that truly has an impact on everyone.
With that comes the challenge and responsibility of how to reach people at the right time via right channels with a voice that is understandable, relevant and impactful to each audience.
EMS LC: You support the EMS through your Associate Membership: What do you expect from the EMS? And what role do you envisage for the EMS in future? Does it have to chance?
Nina Kukkurainen: EMS has provided a forum for its members to meet and share experiences, latest research and products at its annual conferences. For the past couple of years science communications has also been on the conference agenda. I see this as a very important development: sharing best practices and the science on how to reach our audiences is a crucial part in making an impact not only within the meteorological community, but especially outside of it.
EMS LC: Do you collaborate with other EMS Members and how could collaboration be supported by the EMS?
Nina Kukkurainen: EMS has been extremely kind in providing the communications community an opportunity to meet at the EMS Annual Meetings. The communications side event arranged by WMO, EUMETSAT, and ECMWF has been a very valuable forum for communications professionals from different EMS Member organisations, NMSs and other organisations to discuss current topics and share experiences.
Knowing our international colleagues is not only valuable but, I’d say, a must in communications! This is manifested not only in crisis communications but also in daily life.