An (incomplete) SWOT Analysis

A good start in sizing up an organization’s situation and crafting a strategy is the so-called SWOT analysis, which appraises a company’s resource strengths and weaknesses and its external opportunities and threats.

Orchestras share many strengths and opportunities, but also weaknesses and threats. Below, you will find a SWOT analysis focusing on general features. Many of these concepts are liberally taken from “Strategy: Core Concepts, Analytical Tools, Readings” by Thompson, Gamble and Strickland.

Resources that enhances an organization’s competitiveness

Materials and media

  • Vast amount of interesting (archival) content to share with its constituents; many materials are easily accessible or adaptable to the new media environment;
  • Expertise in producing media and content (audio, program notes, knowledgeable employees and intellectual capital);
  • Facilities and human assets to create content (recording studios, high profile guest artists);
  • Strong global distribution capabilities.

Engaged and involved audience

  • Orchestra audiences are involved and engaged with the product; participation and community is important;
  • Strong niche market; classical music has an enormously strong and engaged community.

Established sites and places

  • A powerful brand name within the community, country or world;
  • Extensive and established Web sites;
  • Established as an authoritative and credible source of information;
  • Classical music is well-established on the Internet with several communities;

Shortcomings in resources, representing competitive liabilities

Financial resources

  • Budgets are stretched beyond facility; a weak balance sheet;
  • Short on financial resources to grow the business and pursue promising initiatives.

Human resources

  • New media is unchartered territory for many organizations; no intellectual capital or knowledgeable employees to make effective use of new media;
  • Non-profit job descriptions are stretched and wide-ranging; very few to no orchestras have employed a new media person. Who is responsible for new media and how much time is devoted to new media?

Contracts and Copyright

  • Musician contracts and copyright laws prevent full use of materials and media

Market prospects that can grow and profit an organization

Openings to exploit emerging new technologies

  • New media can significantly extend the life a performance, reaching more patrons and increasing customer service;
  • Online relationships work best when there is an established offline relationship. Online relationships will complement and add value to an offline relationship.

Expanding into new geographic markets and serving additional market segments

  • The Internet is not bound by geography; patrons and fans from all over the world can enjoy a geographically confined orchestra outside of limited tours and recordings;
  • Changes in social patterns online; 64% of teens are online content creators, therein lies a great opportunity to connect with a new market segment.

Openings to win market share from rivals

  • Through a wide geographic coverage and strong global distribution capabilities, orchestras can capture market share from rivals that are not represented in new media.

Entering into alliances or joint ventures to expand the organization’s market coverage

  • Collaboration with other arts organizations, community organizations or orchestras.

External forces that are a risk to an organization’s competitive well-being

Cluttered environment

  • Breaking through the noise; with so many different niche markets and different media, it is hard to break through the clutter and determine the most effective channels;

Ever changing landscape

  • Key rivals introduce innovative new products;
  • Changes in technology and markets.

Demographic structure

  • Difference in demographic makeup between orchestra audience and new media users limits demand.

These four lists—different for every organization or orchestra—show what conclusions can be drawn concerning the state of the company’s position and call for actions to improve the company’s strategy. Thompson, Gamble and Strickland recommend the following:

  • Use company strengths and capabilities as cornerstones for strategy;
  • Pursue those market opportunities best suited to company strengths and capabilities;
  • Correct weaknesses and deficiencies that impair pursuit of important market opportunities or heighten vulnerability to external threats;
  • Use company strengths to lessen the impact of important external threats.

This SWOT analysis is therefore not done, but I will leave it to each individual organization to create its own set of lists, draw its own conclusions and determine its own course of action. This brief and incomplete analysis merely serves as a guide and as a provoker of thought on orchestras and new media.

Source: Thompson, Arthur, John Gamble and A.J. Strickland. “Strategy: Core Concepts, Analytical Tools, Readings” Second Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2006.

5 thoughts on “An (incomplete) SWOT Analysis”

  1. Marc, as you are aware, I love what you are doing here!.

    What I would perhaps add into the SWOT methodology is a “Tools” section as well, and maybe include a membership survey. A survey of both internal and external customers would help you determine what everyone’s expectations are, plus, get a clear(er) picture of each and every point in the SWOT from an external perspective. Especially for a big org like yours, with so many members (a mix of internal and external), you will need to balance both views to produce a sound strategy and probably such a survey would help you outline that.

  2. Thanks Flavia, excellent suggestion on the survey. I’m sure many orchestras regularly hold patron surveys and can look for information there or work to include specific new media questions in the future.

    I’m interested to learn what exactly you meant with the “tools” section.

  3. Hi Marc,

    (I left you another comment this morning in another post that is still pending moderation, by the way. Probably because I included an external link in it).

    By “tools” section, I meant a list of applications that a new Social Media practitioner could use as a reference, a toolbox of sorts (for the SWOT analysis, best survey software, either free or licensed, for the “Blogs” section, best blogging software, etc.). We take these “tools” for granted because we have been using them for a while and have probably been following them from inception. However, people coming from more traditional PR and Marketing roles probably wouldn’t know where to start looking if they need to implement such applications.

    I am currently drafting a proposal for a foundation where the Chairman doesn’t even have a mobile phone and doesn’t see the need for it, considering they have a secretary that relays all important messages. This case might be extreme, but cultural institutions, in many ways, are seriously lagging behind. An ambitious document like the one you are putting together could benefit from including recommendations for these best apps.

  4. Thanks for the clarification! I am planning to create a list of resources and tools at the end of this series, so stay tuned!

    If you have any suggestions for great tools you are currently using, feel free to post them or to send me an e-mail at dutchperspective (at) Thanks!

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