21st Century Journalism XXVII: Digging for Business InfoAt the website of the Society of Professional Journalists, Glenn Lewin, a freelance writer, reporter, and researcher, provides a detailed list of tips (here condensed and slightly edited) for gathering information about a particular business enterprise:
- Work from the outside in, peeling back the “layers of the onion.” "The most solid and reliable information is obtained (and verified) through a variety of sources."
- Conduct documents and public records searches. I.e., check out past litigation, property records, etc.
- Develop multiple sources within the target company. "Constantly look for fresh sources; it’s a mistake to continually tap the same sources. ... Know who in the organization has information, and what information they have."
- Seek information sources from outside the company, such as headhunters, industry consultants, and former employees (especially people from the sales and marketing departments).
- Become familiar with the company’s physical location and business activity. "If, for example, the business claims to be a distributor, but operates out of a small office, is it really just a mail-drop operation posing as a stocking distributor?"
- Generate referrals — both from inside and outside the company. "Managers [and] key decision-makers are often more accessible if approached with a referral."
- Employ investigative interviewing techniques. E.g.: "Build bridges by looking for people and interests you may have in common ... Stay alert for information that doesn’t seem to fit or to make sense..."
- Leverage information / trade information. "... use what you know to obtain still more information. Understand that information is not a one-way street. Be willing to share information with your sources; [this] creates trust, costs nothing, and demonstrates that you are thinking of their needs as well as your own."
- Know who your target company does business with. "Important information may be obtained from the customers and vendors ..."
- Adopt and maintain the proper attitude. "The best investigators are open-minded, diligent, thorough, creative and above all persistent."