Time to Play SWOT!
It's mid-October, and several major show changes already announced for 2014.
This could be the biggest upheaval in the commercial landscape since the Nova launches, especially in Melbourne. And the rumour mill grinds on about further movements, like this here.
More entertaining than the Melbourne Cup, to speculate and bet on, like here.
And for all stations in the respective competitor sets, it means an intense review of market position, and planning for what-if ratings&revenue scenarios. Maybe starting with a SWOT Analysis, which anyone can do, with these tips …
What are your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?
A SWOT Analysis is a deceptively simple, but powerful business technique, that's been around since the 60s, as a brand "health-check".
While ideal for a radio station, you can also do it for your own show, or even yourself as an individual, to map your career development.
Often used when assessing new format or show options, to capture upsides and downsides.
And if a client is up for it, run an objective, SWOT exercise with them for their marketing strategy. Wouldn't hurt either, to see the honest truth on where their radio service can improve.
Don't be put off by the analysis part … it's user-friendly, and not about stats, even though you might use some. It is about observation, and a form of brainstorming. Making creative connections between what seem at first, like unrelated facts.
Macro not Micro
While you'll want to develop an action list from a SWOT, this is not the place for minute detail on execution. Don't get bogged down! It's just the big-picture starting point of What&Why about your brand … before the How, Who and When, which come later.
Be Honest with Yourself!
Whatever your focus, there are no sacred cows, or emotions in this exercise. Be neither overly optimistic or pessimistic … just realistic. The goal is to have a cool, clear-headed base for next steps.
Not vague generalities like "we're a great team" … but Why is that?
Cast a Wide Net
Best to have a variety of sources for a reasonably factual, multi-dimensional view of your world. Assumptions are fine, if specific and common-sense. You need something to work with, and can fine-tune later as situations become clearer.
For a station brand, every form of research you can lay your hands on, can feed the process. Whether its feedback from listeners such as perceptual studies or LABs/focus-groups, technology trend reports or economic forecasts … it all goes in the pot.
For a personal SWOT, use job-performance assessments, thinking-preference type of profiles (some are free trials online), and feedback from trusted confidantes and mentors.
What Does a SWOT Look Like?
It's a simple 4 quadrant chart, you can create yourself like this, or download a free template online, to list your points under each heading.
- Are usually internal, and mostly under your control.
- For a station brand they could include your personality shows, a clear music definition, unique overall differentiation position, strong image perceptions, measurable listener engagement, high-performance promotions and marketing team, social media program, research/feedback loops, sales/integration team that maximises revenue from content and ratings, and corporate support in resources and mandate for your strategy.
- Do include intangibles such as team spirit and positive culture, as they make a difference.
- I wouldn't include good ratings as a strength as such, because that's more an end result of effectively implementing your SWOT Analysis and Action Plan. Same with poor ratings as a Weakness.
- Again, mainly internal, and the reverse image of elements of your product, position, marketing, revenue, and internal culture.
- This can be uncomfortable, but the idea is to fix things, playing the ball not the player, and not dwelling on history and finger-pointing. Negative energies have no place in this exercise.
- Also prioritise (see below), so you're not spinning your wheels and wasting time on issues of low importance.
- Mostly external factors, that while less under your control, still have to be on the radar, so you can jump on an opportunity, and grow your brand.
- An obvious area is something going on with your competitor, such as losing a major personality, format change, or internal upheaval during ownership difficulties or changes.
- Outside of radio, look for changing demographics in your service area, lifestyle trends, pop-culture shifts, seasonal influences, new technologies whether for media&entertainment delivery or social media, and area/state/national politics, regulations and economics.
- There's no limit to what makes an opportunity – this is a fun, creative part of your SWOT.
- Similar themes – what could affect your brand? Both in your competitor set and the wider world?
How to Use?
First, go through the lists and prioritise, even just a rough sort of the most important to least important. In a meeting you might ask participants to nominate their Top 3 in each quadrant, and concentrate on the most voted.
But don't rush to detailed actions yet. What you're considering more broadly are …
- Strengths: that you need to maintain and grow
- Weaknesses: which fixes will have the most impact, short and long-term?
- Opportunities: which have the most potential, and are practical to exploit?
- Threats: which are the most immediate, and which are just over the horizon?
The final, decisive part is where you look for actionable relationships between the 4 quadrants.
For instance …
- Which Opportunities best match your Strengths? High priority for action to stay ahead of the game.
- If there's a great Opportunity and strong brand-fit, but you're weak in that area, that's a re-think on your structures and resources.
- A Threat is best countered with a Strength, but if it's directly linked to a Weakness you have a major problem to address.
- In the minds of your listeners do your Strengths (tested as important to them) outweigh your Weaknesses (less important)? You may have some perceptions of music repetition and too many ads, but if you have the all-star, golden-egg, #1 breakfast show does that matter? Different story if that show leaves!
Note: if you also run a SWOT on your competitor from their point of view, you can make further connections to see where your Strengths may be further resourced to take advantage of their Weaknesses/Threats as your Opportunity.
Now it's down to the detail of building and implementing an operational action plan, based on your findings.
The creator of SWOT theory, management guru Albert S. Humphrey, saw this as a blueprint for change and accountability.
No point in spending the time on the analysis, and not following through.
It takes valuable time to run your SWOT Analysis. But in the upcoming turmoil of 2014, the last thing you need to be is constantly reacting, pressured by events beyond your control, and pulled down by unaddressed Weaknesses and Threats.
When you'll be much better off in pro-active mode, with a clear view of the landscape, and a solid action plan, playing to your Strengths and Opportunities.
Eriks Celmins is Managing Director of Third Wave Media and InsiderFocus, consultant for research, strategy and content. Find out more here.