Step One: Research

Strategic Writing shows you how to write dozens of documents for public relations, advertising, business communications and sales and marketing. And in describing each document, we begin with an analysis of purpose, audience and media. We recommend that you do the same.


Begin your research by defining the document’s purpose: What is its goal? What should it accomplish? What business goal does it support? With your answers to these questions, you should begin to answer another purpose-related question: What should be the one, key strategic message of this document?

Target Audience

Now extend your research to the target audience of the document. To whom are you writing? Audience research generally falls into two categories: demographic and psychographic data. Demographic data consist of nonattitudinal facts such as age, income, gender, educational level, race and so on. Psychographic information contains attitudinal details about values, beliefs, opinions and, of course, attitudes. Psychographic information can include political and religious beliefs, personal ethics codes, goals in life and so on. Use your research to deeply understand your readers. Perhaps the most important question you can answer is why members of your target audience should care about your document. What’s in it for them?

With your understanding of your target audience, you might want to refine the one, key strategic message you’ve begun to identify.


Finally, you should gather information about the medium or media you’ll be using. Will you use Snapchat? Digital ads? Special events? Mobile messaging? All of the above? The characteristics of your chosen media can help you further refine your one, key strategic message. One of the best ways to select the best media for your message is to study your target audience. Which media does it prefer in this situation?

Some of the databases listed below may be fee-based/password-protected. Check with local reference librarians to see which databases you can access through those libraries. Be sure to consult those librarians for additional suggestions.

Target Audience Research Links

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics



Claritas/My Best Segments


Strategic Business Insights/VALS

Pew Research Center

Company/Organization Research Links

Google News

LexisNexis Academic

Business Insights: Essentials

Market Share Reporter

North American Industry Classification System

Media Links

Pew Research Center: Journalism and Media

Pew Research Center: Internet and Technology

Facebook Help Center

Twitter Help Center

Strategic Communication Organizations

Public Relations Society of America

Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management

American Advertising Federation

American Marketing Association

Content Marketing Association

Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Mobile Marketing Association

International Association of Business Communicators