Review internal and external factors
What is it?
Assessing external environmental factors (socio-cultural, technological, economic, ecological, political, legal and ethical, STEEPLE) and examining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) relevant to the intervention.
Environmental analysis involves collecting information about the external environment, forecasting and anticipating change, identifying environmental opportunities and threats and assessing the impact of environmental factors on decision making.
It also involves analysing the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organisation/team/provider network relevant to the design and delivery of the intervention. More >
Strengths and weaknesses analysis focuses on all aspects of internal operations, for example, people, finance, services, and is a consequence of the resource audit.
Why do this?
This analysis will:
- Identify potential constraints, challenges, opportunities and threats which are out-with the control of the team/steering group.
- Help avoid threats and take advantage of opportunities.
- Provide information to minimise weaknesses and build on strengths.
- Identify where additional resources are required, and their nature.
- Provide information for effective decision making.
- Provide information about appropriate choice of social marketing activities.
- Identify internal and external factors that may impact on the success of the intervention
How might you do this?
There are a number of tools available to help you, such as STEEPLE and SWOT analysis listed below.
A brainstorming exercise could be a useful first step. People may have different perspectives on the nature and impact of environmental factors, so it is important to gather as much information and as many views as possible. It is helpful to:
- Identify relevant environmental factors which impact on the challenge and the target audience. More >
Additionally, any known future changes, for example, in legislation, should be included. The following example uses the STEEPLE tool to assess environmental factors relevant to a local community’s behaviour to reduce CO2 emissions.
STEEPLE factors impacting on behaviour relating to carbon emissions.
Socio–cultural: focus on values and norms. What is acceptable within a society or sub-group? Nature and influence of social institutions – the family, church and education. Role of the media. Leisure activities.
- General awareness of the nature of CO2 emissions on the environment.
- Positive attitudes among some elements of the UK population. Positive behaviours with respect to recycling, transport choices and so on.
- Negative attitudes among others as a result of conflicting scientific evidence/government actions (local, national and international). Consumption driven society.
Technological: Available technologies with respect to products and services, communication, distribution and so on.
- Potential for more efficient public transport – such as faster trains.
- Increase in energy saving appliances.
- Greater amount of information with respect to CO2 emissions available via the Internet.
Economic: Levels of inflation, unemployment, income and distribution of income.
- Costs of household fuel, comparative costs of public and private transport
Ecological: Resource depletion, natural catastrophes, climate change, endangered species.
- Increasing scientific evidence on climate change
Political: Local, national and international government perspectives and actions. Pressure groups.
- Increasing number of local authority public transport initiatives; cycle paths and recycling facilities.
- Failure of local government to secure funding for transport initiatives such as the metro-link.
- Congestion charges and taxes on refuse collections.
- Failure of governments to create international agreements
Legal: Legislation concerned with influencing the behaviour of individuals, communities and organisations.
- Legislation re energy efficiency of appliances and homes.
Ethical: concepts of right and wrong, confidentiality of information, respect for the individual, nature of professional behaviour.
- Varying perspectives on our rights to deplete the natural environment.
- The use of fear messages to influence opinion might be considered unethical.
- More choices available to higher income groups, for example, for recycling.
- Separate the environmental factors into opportunities and threats. More >
In the example of changing a local community’s behaviour to reduce CO2 emissions, negative factors (failure of local government to secure funding for transport initiatives, and negative attitudes among the target audience), would be considered threats. The high costs of household fuel, congestion charges and taxes on refuse collection could be opportunities, as they have the potential to positively change behaviour. These various factors can be laid out in a SWOT chart
- Consider the impact and implications of the various environmental factors. More >
There may be numerous threats and opportunities (current and potential), so it is important to prioritise them. It might be useful to assign high/medium/low ratings to each, or to allocate a number (for example -5 to +5) depending on whether this is an opportunity or threat. The implications for the social marketing programme can then be discussed
- Determine information needs and monitoring arrangements. More >
SWOT analysis is an ongoing process. As the external environment and internal resources change, new information and perspectives can be added. It is useful to make sure that the environmental factors with the greatest potential impact are more closely monitored
- An analysis of strengths and weaknesses of internal factors can be undertaken at the same time as the external analysis. More >
List the resources relevant to the current challenge (such as financial, services, and human resources), and assess the strengths and weaknesses (link to resources analysis section). Add these to the SWOT chart
- Ensure that the STEEPLE and SWOT analyses relates specifically to the current project
- Recognise that both STEEPLE and SWOT analyses are ongoing. More >
An initial SWOT analysis may be conducted with existing information/knowledge. Further analysis will include new information regarding internal resources and the external environment
- Look on the opportunities identified in the SWOT analysis as environmental opportunities. More >
For example, an increase in government funding or a positive change in public attitude
- Be aware that the internal/external distinction is not always as clear cut as it may appear.
- Remember that many of the factors will be inter-related. More >
For example, a change in the ecological environment and government legislation
- An opportunities, threats and impact analysis table
- A SWOT analysis chart
- A clearer understanding of the current status of the team/organisation/network
- Identified resource and information needs
- Appreciation of external factors which can impact on the programme
- Documents, such as a SWOT chart, which can be circulated for comment and used as a basis for communication