Quote: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Know yourself and know your enemy
Using a SWOT Analysis to Inventory Your Abilities.
Sun Tzu talks about knowing yourself and knowing your enemy. But how often are we honest about our own strengths and those of others we’re competing against? The advantages are that it makes it easy to win, because you can make a plan that puts you on the high ground. You can predict their potential courses of action when your initial plan goes awry. And you can know what you can and can’t do, in reality (not just what everyone else can and should do).
And although many of us know what a SWOT analysis is, we often don’t think it can be applied to communication. I’m gonna try to change that today.
A SWOT is a quad chart with four squares. The top 2 squares, from left to right, are “strengths and weaknesses.” The bottom two are “opportunities and threats.” The top is about you. The bottom is about them.
Here’s an example: http://startupstacks.com/infographics/swot-analysis-theme-x‑3.html
Mistakes in Using the SWOT
First off, let’s remember why we’re doing this. Because it shows your actual, literal advantage: that activity that gives you the lowest opportunity cost.
- Mistake 1: Failing to define scope.
- Mistake 2: Strengths too vague. It’s not “quality.” You need to get beyond that quick. Figure out what about you helps you deliver quality.
- Mistake 3: Treating weaknesses like things you need to fix.
- Bonus: Failing to iterate and allow it to turn into a clear statement of strength and guide process. Threats should cancel out strengths, because strengths are relative. And if someone in your competition is better than you at something, and it’s not something you can get better than them at, then stop competing with them.
Example SWOT Elements in Communication
Let’s talk about messaging and the process for a second. Because I think very few people understand messaging and storytelling well enough to be able to even write a good SWOT. Let me explain.
- Good creative work?
- Efficiency in the creative process?
- Clear goal for the creative work that’s informed by company goals?
- Clear understanding of the audience through a good research process?
So get your team together, build your SWOT and then follow it up in a week with a plan, and then in 3 months to see if the plans worked. The point is, it’s great to have done a SWOT. But it’s not worth much if it doesn’t turn into a plan.
- Deep Dive, by Rich Horwath. Rich shares many of my frustrations about business strategy and the inability to see their blind spots.
- An example of a SWOT from Startup Themes.
If you’ve enjoyed this outline, and you want to learn more about standing up a brand in your own organization using brand and content strategy and the brand hacking method, which means keeping it simple and iterating quickly, then let’s talk.
Bio: I’m Chris Stadler, and I’ve been watching, working, studying and consulting for brands since 2004. I will show you how to right-size your promises so that they’re promises you can keep. Because it’s not the expensive branding agencies that make great brands; they’re just the decorators. It’s your leadership and integrity that make it all work. But it takes process.