It’s one of the most basic tenets of the whole PR game, and one that’s shared with much of the corporate world, the principle of SWOT.
For those of you who haven’t had it implanted in your head by a succession of lectures, meetings and briefings, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, which are all pretty much self explanatory. We must address each of these in turn for any campaign, event or undertaking, but some of us, myself included, are guilty of ignoring the last, and arguably most vital, section.
Threats and run the gamut from a member of staff being delayed by traffic, all the way up to, and including, the declaration of war. We can edit out the extremes, with one end being somewhat inconsequential, with the other so improbable we can rule it out. But accidents do happen, acts of God occur and the threat of terrorism hasn’t gone away, you know.
Work anywhere with the public and you are presented with these doomsday scenarios, of evacuation and escape routes, warnings never to shout ‘fire’ at a theatre (though if you hear an announcement asking if Mr Smith or some such can report to the lobby, it might be wise to gather yourself up). I once worked at an event where Bill Clinton himself was due to speak, which included the mandatory snipers and the welding shut of manhole covers. Just in case.
And as I write this the sound of storm Eleanor rattles off my window, reminding me of Ophelia. Storm Ophelia was due to hit Belfast at around 3pm, and projected to last until late that night. Galway had already taken a hiding and the venue I work for had a band booked that night, due to travel up from Dublin.
While the preparations were made to shore up the homestead (which, for some reason, included filling every available vessel with tap water) the band were messaged. Fortunately the Dears, an indie-outfit from the wilds of Canada, (who are really rather good, by the way. Would put you in the mind of Morrissey without the unpleasantness) are one of those bands who keep up to date with the twitter.
At 9.58 a message was sent, asking if all was going to plan. They responded within three minutes, saying they were on the way, having left early to beat the storm. “We are road warriors” they added.
At this stage the storm was lashing the west coast of Ireland, and the pubs and shops of Belfast shut down
The messages lit up. Was the gig going ahead? Yes! Was it still at the same time? Yes! We’re we still open? Yes!
We lost the support group, but Canadians are made of sterner stuff, and turned up before lunchtime, ahead of schedule and loaded in. Reassurance was the order of the day, the Empire Bar has a cosy Basement and Ophelia blew itself out before it hit us. And then they posted this picture, which is when we knew everything would be all right.
Shane Horan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.