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Journalism - Strategic Communication

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects


1. Company

  • Basics
    • Company Mission Statement
    • What is the stated Vision for the company?
    • Why was the company started?
    • Core values?
    • Core competencies?  Are they known for something?
    • Financials
      • What are the key drivers of revenue and profit?  Trends?
  • Business Strategy
    • What business does the client believe they are in?
    • What category?
    • Who/what is the competition?
    • What do they perceive are their competitive advantages?
      • When you review information from the Competitive and Consumer sections, do you agree?
    • Ask for proprietary research studies
    • Ask for current & past advertising and promotional efforts
      • What were they designed to achieve?

Information about the company's history, mission and vision statements, culture and values can often be found on the company's website.  Financials (if a publicly traded company) can be found in the SEC disclosure documents or 10K.  Mergent Online, Net Advantage (Capital IQ) and Factiva will have financials for publicly traded companies.  Look for news releases, business trade and news publications in Business Source Premier and FactivaBusiness Source Premier often has market research reports and SWOT analysis of companies and industries. 


2.  Category/Industry

  • Identify economic trends
  • What is the health of the category?  Growing?  Not?
  • What type of category is it?  Mature, emerging?  How might this impact your efforts?
  • How is the product/service typically marketed within the category?
    • What are the usual marketing tactics?
      • Does everyone in the category market alike?
  • What external factors might impact the category?
    • Seasonality (Spring season for fashion)
    • Weather (availability of raw materials)

Information about industries, business lines, etc. can be found by exploring the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes business assign themselves.  Data about these industries/codes is collected by the government and aggregated on the United States Census NAICS website.  Mergent OnlineNet Advantage (Capital IQ) and Factiva will have information about individual publicly traded companies and comparisons within their peer group.  IBIS World provides information about industries and trends by NAICS.    Net Advantage will have industry surveys and information about representative companies in that space, although they do not categorize by NAICS.  Find geolocation of businesses and information about a specific business at a specific location by using SimplyAnalytics.  Associations and organizations, which collect data and educate their members about trends, etc., are very good places to locate information about a particular category or segment.


3.  Consumer

  • Begin with relevant trends
    • Societal, lifestyle
  • In general, how do consumers respond to the category?
    • Are they primarily loyal, switchers, deal or variety-seeking?
    • Who are the current customers?
    • Are they the most profitable?
    • What would make them more profitable?
    • Profile them (demographics, psychographics, attitudes, behavior)
  • Prospects?
    • Profile them (demographics, psychographics, attitudes, behavior)
    • Barriers?
  • What is the purchase cycle?
  • How does the decision process work?
  • What can you identify about the purchase?
    • High or low involvement?
    • Primarily a rational or emotional decision?
  • Key motivations?
  • Unmet needs?

Market size, segments, channels, customer information sources and trends may be found in market research databases like: Mintel and SimplyAnalyticsBusiness Source Premier often has market research reports and SWOT analysis of companies and industries.  Articles about trends, channels and market share may be found in: Business Source Premier and Factiva.  Industry trade publications and blogs offer another source of market and trend information.


4.    Competition

  • Be sure to look at direct and indirect competitors
    • It often tells you where the industry is going
    • Don't assume that what works for them will be appropriate for your brand
  • What are they selling?  Dissect competitive strategies
    • Identify competitive brand positioning
  • Try to summarize what the competition is doing and why
    • What can you learn from the competition?
  • Think about how your client's brand is positioned in relation to the competition
  • How does your budget compare?

Information about competitors, their products, market share, strengths and weaknesses can be found in company/industry databases such as:  Business Source Premier, Mergent OnlineNet AdvantageIBIS World; business trade and news publications like Factiva; and market research databases like Mintel. Competitive positioning might be revealed through advertising campaigns shared in advertising databases like Adforum, Ad Age Datacenter , Communication and Mass Media Complete and Winmo.  

Wrap up with hypotheses, which is the logical outcome of your situation analysis.