Cracking Private Companies by Jodi Schneider


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Bloomberg's Jodi Schneider presents "Cracking Private Companies," a free, half-day workshop sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and hosted by The Arizona Republic and the Arizona Newspapers Association.

For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit

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Cracking Private Companies by Jodi Schneider

  1. 1. Cracking Private Companies Jodi Schneider
  2. 2. Re-Imaging the Private Company Profile <ul><li>Private companies are often not covered on as regular a cycle as publicly traded companies as they don ’t have regular financial filings that often lead to stories. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Do Your Background Research Before Contacting The Company <ul><li>Even when requesting an interview, you want to make it clear that you’ ll have a particular focus </li></ul><ul><li>Don ’t figure you’ll learn about the company through an interview – you want to be armed with lots of background, data and information about its executives. </li></ul><ul><li>So read everything your news organization and others have written on them, study the financials of their publicly traded competitors and check out documents such as court cases. </li></ul><ul><li>Then decide on your focus and start your company-targeted research. </li></ul>Photo by Flickr user Marco Bellucci
  4. 4. Talk To a Lot of People, Not Just in the C-Suite of the Company <ul><li>When doing a profile of a person or a publicly traded company, reporters usually talk to a host of people. </li></ul><ul><li>On your list of those who should be contacted: </li></ul><ul><li>Former employees, competitors, vendors and suppliers, local officials who have helped the company </li></ul>Photo by Flickr user Paul Stevenson
  5. 5. Use the Companies ’ Own Records as a Voice in the Story <ul><li>Companies have an image to protect, especially those in fields that serve consumers, and often they work hard to show a particular “face” to the public, </li></ul><ul><li>Some companies even have published histories, especially if they have been in a community for decades or longer. </li></ul>Photo by Flickr user lejoe
  6. 6. Case Study: Where Would You Find the Info? Photo by Flickr user Kitty Terwolbeck
  7. 7. What ’s Public about Private Companies? <ul><li>Figuring about where private companies intersect with public information is key to thorough, expert coverage of such companies. So a reporter needs to determine what kind of information even private companies must disclose, and to whom. </li></ul>Photo by Flickr user Banalities
  8. 8. Occupational Safety <ul><li>All companies are required to file information about workplace safety and especially about accidents and deaths on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, inspects workplaces and keeps data on such inspections. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Patent Information <ul><li>Especially for those covering technology companies, data about patents and trademarks can be quite useful. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, based in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., can provide information about products that privately held companies are working on, through their patent applications. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Environmental Information <ul><li>Finding out about a company ’s record of environmental compliance on the federal level can be useful for writing profiles about a company or can be helpful when there are disputes. </li></ul>Photo by Flickr user Robert Scoble
  11. 11. Banking Data <ul><li>All banks that are regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, must submit data to the agency, whether they are privately or publicly held. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Insurance Information <ul><li>States regulate insurers, and it ’s often difficult to track information about them as they must report information to individual states. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Local Government <ul><li>Privately held companies typically interact with local governments concerning planning, zoning, environmental compliance and other local regulatory issues. While individual governments track this information differently, there are some sites that provide overall information. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Donations <ul><li>Determining how much money, and to whom, various company executives are donating to public officials for their re-election campaigns can be a useful pursuit. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Court Information <ul><li>Lawsuits are a great place way to gather information on privately held companies, and often this information can lead you to more data about the company or can be a starting point for questioning them. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Executive Information <ul><li>Finding out details about a company ’s executives can provide good background for stories or profiles. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Tax Information <ul><li>The IRS doesn ’t routinely provide information about companies – all taxpayer information is private, unless it’s an extraordinary situation. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet, sometimes information about individual companies is included in press releases from the IRS or another taxing authority, when they have reached settlement agreements with companies. </li></ul><ul><li>Some county tax assessor ’s offices have websites, on which you can find information such as the appraised value of property. This can be useful for profiles and also can help you keep track of a company’s tax bills on property. Counties often store the tax rolls electronically – it may be worth filing an open records request for such information. </li></ul>
  19. 19. 1. Think Like a Detective - Put Together The Pieces <ul><li>Make a plan. </li></ul>
  20. 20. 2. Don't be afraid to ask - Private doesn't mean invisible <ul><li>Just because a company doesn ’t file regular documents with the SEC doesn’t mean that it isn’t closely tracked by those in its industry or in your community. In other words, if it’s a significant company, there will be people who follow it, and it’s in your best interest to develop relationships with them. </li></ul>
  21. 21. 3. Study the company - Including the material it generates <ul><li>Often reporters ignore, at their own peril, material a company provides about itself – saying it ’s self-serving. While that may be the case, what the company says about its operations, history and personnel can be a starting point for determining where you can get “the other side” about it. So, look closely at everything it provides, especially if you’re new to a beat. </li></ul>
  22. 22. 4. Don't Overlook a Company's Holdings <ul><li>Sometimes reporters say it ’s frustrating to cover a privately held company because so little is known about them. Yet often those reporters are looking at only the parent company and its lack of publicly available financial data. If you think more broadly, you may find a treasure trove of information. Many companies buy and sell land, divisions, equipment, buildings and sometimes spin off various divisions. Often, these transactions leave a record. </li></ul>
  23. 23. 5. Think about Where Private Overlaps or Intersects with Public <ul><li>Publicly traded companies are required to disclose a great deal of information about their dealings with other companies – including privately held ones. So it ’s important for you to closely follow the goings-on of public companies that do business with or compete with the privately held companies you follow, even if they aren’t in your community or in the industry area you follow. </li></ul>Photo by Flickr user vauvau