A SWOT analysis can be one of the most effective tools for businesses looking to strengthen their communications programs. This well-known marketing practice is a useful way to take an objective look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that affect your company. Knowing what challenges you face and what resources you have to face them will help you craft a better strategy to communicate more effectively.
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It's not easy for company leaders to point to the best and worst parts of their businesses. Emotional attachment and knowledge that goes beyond the implementation of certain practices can colour your point of view. In order to figure out what your key messages should be, you must first figure out where you stand within your market and what you have to offer customers.
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Measure your strengths by determining what your internal assets are. Internal assets are qualities that your business has that are unique from those of your competitors—these are the things your company is already doing well. Examples include loyal employees with long careers at the company, production methods that reduce cost and increase quality and a mission that is connected to all of your work. Strengths are within your control, and you are already making the most of them. Strengths should be the headliners in your communications and key messages. Make sure your customers know what’s already great about your business.
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Consider what your company is not doing well; these are your weaknesses. Internal weaknesses point to the areas where your business needs to focus time and attention, as well as expert resources. Examples include a negative work culture, too much (or too little) procedural oversight and traditional operations that don’t take advantage of new technology. Weaknesses are things you control, so you can make the necessary changes to turn them into strengths. Your positioning statements should reflect that you recognise and seek to improve on areas of weakness.
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Your opportunities are the external counterpart to your strengths, and represent things your company could be doing well. Opportunities include trends in the market that make your product more relevant and endorsements from trusted sources. To define your opportunities, compare your strengths to those of your competitors and find out what they are doing that you are not. Then look beyond your industry to businesses that are succeeding in other competitive markets. While you can’t control the opportunities your company has, you can take advantage of them if you know what they are. In your communication materials, identify your opportunities as the future of your company. You want to seem forward-thinking, and one way to do this is to let customers know what your next move will be.
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Threats represent external problems or challenges that your company is facing. If your competitors are pursuing business models that you have ignored, this is a threat. Social changes that can make your product seem dangerous or harmful can also threaten your business. Threats are the barriers to success that you cannot change. However, by identifying threats you can prepare to overcome them. Mentioning threats in your key messages requires significant strategy and excellent writing skills. Generally, you will point to threats as things that are challenges for everyone, not just your company, and refocus attention on your strengths and opportunities.
- "The SWOT Analysis"; Lawrence G. Fine; 2009
- Make the most of SWOT analysis for communication projects