12.3 Private-Sector Institutions

Private-sector institutions issue massive amounts of information, again some of it in the form of materials that are designed as publications for internal and external audiences. For example, many large companies publish “house organs” or magazines that feature information about the company’s products and services, industry developments, the community activities and “good deeds” the company has done, employee awards and accomplishments and similar types of information.

A pile of annual reports

Hourann Bosci – A pile of annual reports – CC BY-SA 2.0

Publicly-held private-sector institutions (those that sell stock to shareholders) are required to produce annual reports. These publications provide valuable insight into the financial details of a company as well as the values of the company and the concerns it is addressing. These financial reports must also be submitted to the federal government via the Securities and Exchange Commission and then become public records.

Private-sector institutions might make publicly available a white paper or policy document that details the current state and possible avenues for addressing a particular issue affecting their organization. Part of the intention with this publication is to affect policy, influence stakeholders or position the institution for more favorable treatment or improved reputation in public opinion.

Another category of publications from private-sector institutions is their promotional materials — product catalogs, media kits, news releases, enthusiast magazines (sometimes called “owned media”) and related publications and digital content intended to be persuasive with customers and journalists.

Private-sector institutions are required to file information about their financial political activities through the Federal Elections Commission, although these publication requirements have been weakened by recent Supreme Court rulings. Nevertheless, private-sector institutions sometimes produce publications about their involvement in political activities even if the data about donations to specific candidates or causes is not available.

Sticking with our NFL example, If you need to find publications produced by the private-sector NFL Players’ Association, their website provides access to their “Community News” publication along with many other publications they have issued for and about their members. If you wanted to know what the private-sector NFL itself was doing/saying about the issue, their website would provide access to the League’s publications and reports they have issued. The Brain Injury Association of America would be another private-sector institution you might want to tap. As an advocacy organization, they would provide publications and documentation of their activities in trying to influence public policy and raise awareness around brain injuries among government, business and sports leaders.