Don’t Just SWOT, SWEAT!

In the first article of this series First: Find the Plot, I covered the importance of knowing where your station or show stands in relation to the market. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at your product and assess its strengths and opportunities for improvement.

With this series, you’ll get a comprehensive set of frameworks for analyzing the market, your station or show, and last but not least, the audience. The primary purpose of these frameworks is to gain a deeper understanding. With deeper understanding, you may uncover insights that will help you shape a strategy to move the needle in the direction of ratings and revenue growth.

In the first three articles in this series, I’m covering how to analyze the MSA as phase one of our journey. We know the acronym MSA to represent the Metro Survey Area - but in the context of this series, I’m using it to refer to the most fundamental way of looking at the competitive landscape, our product, and the target audience. Hey, who says we can’t have fun with all these acronyms!

MSA = market, station/show, audience.

SWOT Exercise as a Group

In my former role as vice president of content at Univision, I lead content strategies and the operations of a group of 20 stations across America. With stations in 15 cities, the team and I needed an easy and most effective way of understanding the markets we competed in and what our position was in each of them. This need was perfectly fulfilled by the famous strategy tool called the SWOT analysis.

At one point our team was so good at dissecting our product and that of our competitors using the SWOT analysis that we would sometimes joke about our abilities to analyze using the SWOT. If we ever did a SWOT on the team itself we’d find:

  • Strength - doing SWOTs
  • Weakness - spending too much time doing SWOTs
  • Opportunity - finding a tool beyond the SWOT for analyzing our on-air product
  • Threat - was taking SWOTs too literally and mistake them for reality

Joking aside, the SWOT exercise is a profoundly simple and effective means of identifying and understanding a station’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. But of course, the use of this tool is only as effective as the input and knowledge you already possess to objectively assess your station. If you have biased positions, unchallenged assumptions, or inaccurate estimations on your product the SWOT won't be of much help.

In order to make the best use of the SWOT analysis tool, I’ll make a few recommendations to prepare for the exercise with your team and I’ll point out three key areas to focus on for your analysis.

Preparation for SWOT Analysis

In preparation for the SWOT, I recommend you listen to your on-air product as best you can from the perspective of a listener first. Avoid as much as possible coming into your listening session with a preconceived notion of what’s right and what’s wrong with the station or show. Try to listen as you would if you were about to listen to a radio station you've never heard before while on vacation. Just enjoy it, experience it. Then you can put your programmer hat on and focus on the areas described below.

The three key areas to base your analysis on are: PPM (I couldn't resist throwing in another made-up acronym!)

P - Personalities

  • Are they relatable?
  • Do they talk to the listener directly and one-on-one?
  • Are they interesting? Are they fun?

P - Positioning and Promotion

  • Who is the station for?
  • What does this station stand for or do for the listener?
  • How is it promoted on the air and externally to attract listeners?

M - Music

  • What music does the station play or doesn’t play?
  • How strong/popular is the music mix? Does the music flow?
  • Does it play too much or too little music?

Some background evaluations you’d want to have done before diving in with your team for a SWOT analysis exercise are:

  1. Evaluation of your product’s ratings against direct competitors and the market or format as a whole.
  2. Observations of major ratings trends by day-part and key demographic groups.

You may want to share as much of this preliminary information with your team or have them do their own analysis prior to coming in as a group to do the SWOT exercise.

SWOT Analysis Group Exercise

I’ve found useful to divide the group in four, assign each group a quadrant on the SWOT, and have them spend some time analyzing the product and writing each one of their findings on post-it notes. Once the groups have had time to analyze, each group shares their findings with the entire team and post the notes on a board for all to see and discuss. This creates a good dynamic exchange that helps deepen everyone's understanding of the product’s position. The collaborative approach and rich discussion help uncover insights that will later serve to craft a strategy for growth in the next stage of the process.

I get the SWOT, but what's with the SWEAT?

In all honesty, the SWEAT is not a framework I've used while working with groups in the past, but it occurred to me as I was thinking about this article and what may be some of the limitations of using the SWOT.

We compete in a dynamic marketplace where listeners, our offerings and our competitors’ are in constant flux. Being stuck in a particular SWOT frame of mind can make us lose touch with the ever-changing marketplace and keep us in a static and insular point of view. Therefore, I thought of the acronym SWEAT to talk about a few things I find important to keep in mind with any analysis of the market, an on-air product and the audience in order to be fluid, evolving and consistently innovative.

SWEAT stands for:


S - Strengths (as uncovered in the SWOT).

W - Weaknesses (as uncovered in the SWOT).

{These first two will be mostly inward-looking about programming, operations, and marketing}

E - the Environment in which your product “competes” for attention from a listener or consumer. This environment is not limited to terrestrial radio, it includes other forms of audio entertainment and other media.

You can use The Plot discussed in my first article to look at the broader landscape or explore Porter's Five Forces Analysis to look at the entire industry.

A - Advantage - Bill Tanner, one of my mentors used to always ask, “what makes us different and what makes us better?” I'll add to look for the answers to these questions from the perspective of a listener - that's your competitive advantage!

T - Trends: 

  • What’s happening in the market?
  • Where do you predict is going?
  • How is technology impacting your audience and the industry?
  • How do you think technology will impact your product and the audience in the future?
  • How can you address these trends?

What's Coming Next

First: Find The Plot, then SWOT and SWEAT, but don’t sweat it… I hope it’s all coming together for you. Having broader perspective and a better understanding of your market and product can emerge from taking time with these frameworks.

In the next article, we’ll look at what matters most and the reason we do all we do - the audience! Understanding the audience and their needs better than anyone else is key to developing a winning content offering. I'll share with you some of the most practical and useful ways of analyzing the target audience without the need for expensive research (which you may use if you have it).

In my conversations with clients, I point to the fact that the second P in PPM stands for People. Those people are VIPs and should come first - we want to know all about them and serve them what they want and the ratings shall follow. 

Thanks for reading!

RadioFernando Perez