Private-sector institutions gather, generate and use data about their customers, their businesses and industries, their financial circumstances and many other practices central to their success. Businesses, advocacy groups, think tanks, and many other private-sector institutions generate data to bolster their positions, lobby for change, defend their actions and communicate with the public. Many times, institutions will take data from a source such as the federal government (census data, for instance) and “massage” it for their own purposes by reinterpreting the figures, adding analysis or selectively choosing the “evidence” that supports a position or point of view.
Many of these institutions have vested interests in providing you with a particular set of facts or pointing you in a specific direction for your information strategy. They all want to “set the agenda” in their subject areas and control the parameters of public discourse. For this reason, they will go to great lengths to provide some types of data and withhold other types. Your job as a communications professional is to understand how to dissect the data you collect and how to seek material that eludes you.
For our purposes here, you simply need to recognize that there are a large number of firms that collect data on consumer behavior, audience characteristics, media use, and related activities and sell that information to media organizations, among many others. Strategic communicators, especially, rely on these syndicated research services for the data they provide to help understand audiences.