Have a Problem? SWOT it!

Wendy Kelly
Sep 10, 2015

Use Mad Men Era SWOT Analysis for Epic Content Strategy #ContentDevelopment

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Use SWOT Analysis for Content Audit

Use an old school method for discovering opportunities and threats, strengths and weaknesses in your content strategy.

Content Strategy

SWOT Analysis has been used for decades to help people find their strengths and weaknesses and discover threats and opportunities in their business and personal lives. Now you can apply SWOT analysis to your content strategy and learn more about what you need to communicate to your audience.

Strategic Content SWOT Analysis

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Since using SWOT helps you to discover "low hanging fruit" - opportunities that you are in a perfect place to exploit, and also understand any weaknesses that make you vulnerable, it is a powerful technique to apply to your inbound content marketing strategy.

By using this strategy, you'll also strengthen your brand and become more aware of the nuances that make your brand unique and differentiated from your competitors. This information can then help you define your style, including word usage (lexicon) as well as sentence length, grammar usage, and even article length.

How to Use SWOT for Content

Content Strategy SWOT

Some say that Albert S Humphrey created the tool back in the Mad Men 60s, but he does not take credit for its creation though he used it at Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

Whoever created it, it's a helpful tool that's as relevant today as it was back then.

Like any tool, it's only as good as the information and thought you put into it. So really decide that you are going to be honest, take some time with it, and then dive in.

My advice would be to try this with a team, including your design guru, content people as well as anyone involved in marketing or sales. You'll be surprised and enlightened by what comes up, and you'll end off with richer and more complex information.

Answer the questions below, for all four categories. Consider that being as honest as possible is highly correlated to the ultimate usefulness of this exercise, so really take the time to think about your answers. Once you have them on paper, you can use them in a matrix to come up with your content strategy.

Internal Factors

The first two categories come from inside your company and either positively or negatively affect you.


  • What do you do well? What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What is special about your company? Think about people and assets.
  • What gives you an advantage over your competition
  • What factors result in you getting "the sale" - When people buy from you, why do they? What do you hear again and again?

Because this is ultimately an exercise in content strategy, consider things you might end up creating content around, but don't overly focus on this. At this point, you will try to write down characteristics that your company is known for, actual assets that you own, resources you can rely on, and people you can count on in your company.

Think about what separates you from your competition. For example, are you a hotel that is known for its customer service? That's a strength. Are you a restaurant committed to (and known for) using local foods? Do you hear again and again that someone used your service because of the commitment to quality in one or more of your team members?


  • What needs the  most improvement in your company?
  • What does your business lack - skills, expertise, capital?
  • Is your business in a poor location or does it have limited resources?
  • What factors lose you sales?

Just write it all down. Don't overthink. Don't start to cry. Just get a little detached and objective and start writing. You aren't going to write your next blog post "Why We Suck and What This Means for You, Our Customer".

You're going to use this information to help come up with a content strategy that ultimately uses this knowledge to help overcome weaknesses and pursue opportunities, or help come up with a content plan to deter threats.

External Factors

The following two categories are external. They come from outside your company and either positively or negatively affect your position.


  • Is the perception of your business positive - Here's a question you probably don't want to answer if it's a "No." Get a few opinions and listen to what people tell you.
  • Has there been recent market growth?
  • Are there timely opportunities that you will want to take advantage of? Consider anniversaries, events, etc.
  • List trends that affect your industry
  • List Changes in technology and markets.
  • List Changes in government policy.
  • List Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, and so on.

This section benefits from a bit of research. Take the time to look into your industry, check out trends and technological changes as well as government policy and demographic changes. Definitely new blog post ideas can come directly from this section. You'll also use this information, though, to inform your strategy more broadly.


  • Do you know who your biggest competitors are?
  • What things beyond your control could be a problem for you? Weather forecasts, currency exchange, changing trends?
  • Speaking of trends…are there any you are aware of that threaten your business?
  • Are you (or should you be) worried about obsolescence?
  • Are quality standards or specifications changing?
  • Is changing technology threatening your position?

Threats will be used to inform your strategy, in a similar way to the weaknesses. You'll want to be aware of threats and use your strengths to offset them or simply avoid them.

What Now?

SWOT Content StrategyOnce you have all four areas filled in and have a solid idea of what your internal and external positive and negative influences are, you can use that information to inform your content strategy.

Traditionally, the information from a SWOT analysis helps companies strategize. Since its inception, it has also been used for community building, social work, personal growth, and marketing.

But the essence of the analysis is that you have a solid idea of internal and external positive and negative influences.

 Next comes putting this information to good use.

Transform and Match

Use the information to fill in your content editorial calendar with content that helps to match your strengths to opportunities, and transform weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities.

Examples of Strategy

S - O - Look at your list of opportunities. Do you notice ones that really emphasize the strengths your company possesses? Use those to create content. With your data in front of you, remember to emphasize your strengths in the content.

W - O - Similarly, find opportunities to write about (or create infographics, videos or other content) that help to minimize or overcome weaknesses. For example, perhaps your company's weakness is a poor location, but there is an opportunity to write about upcoming events or other (real) benefits about this location.

S - T - Use your company's strengths to overcome perceived threats. An example of this in content strategy might be to stress your company's incredibly high standards in the face of an increase in quality expectations in your demographic.

W - T - This segment is really perhaps the least useful most of the time. For strategy, you'll want to be aware of your weaknesses and know deeply how they might be affected by upcoming threats. There may be times that you will want to create content to actively circumvent an upcoming threat that your company is especially vulnerable to because of a weakness. At the same time, most likely, the best strategy is probably more likely not a content one.

Use With Your Editorial Calendar

By filling your editorial calendar in with content that you have come up with in this way, you can make sure that any timely opportunities have content scheduled in on the appropriate date. 

This is just one more method to ensure that your content strategy is closely aligned with your entire company's ethos and overall strategy.

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