Finding Intercultural Business Communication Research Sites in Companies

Article excerpt

The North American Fee Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will increase intercultural communication between business people in Mexico, Canada, and the U.S., creating important opportunities for business communication researchers. Research conducted inside companies could yield useful industry-specific and regional information about communication processes, ways of conducting meetings, use of communication technologies, proposals, marketing letters, product documentation, labels, training programs, letters, and memos. As cultural adaptation occurs, more research will be needed to document ongoing changes. If you're interested in meeting such challenges, this essay will help you identify appropriate companies and contact them.

Naturally, your communication research questions, not the availability of data, ought to drive your choice of research sites. There are many interesting and appropriate research questions to pursue (Limaye & Victor, 1991). Carefully thinking through your research plan in advance will make it easier to determine what kind of companies would make the best research sites. Finding a site isn't easy, but if you start your search with your closest resources and then look for more distant (and costly) information sources, you may discover good research contacts and locations fairly inexpensively and efficiently. (For convenience, we assumed our readers were U.S. residents.)

FILL IN BACKGROUND WITH INTERNATIONALLY-ORIENTED U.S. SOURCES

People who could help you find information about and contacts in Mexican and Canadian companies may be closer than you realize. Look for other faculty members who have conducted research abroad or who have served as consultants in international situations. Review your list of consulting clients. You may have contacts in a company that has a foreign subsidiary. You may have taught a business communication course in a company that is planning to export to Mexico or to establish an office in Canada. Think about your university colleagues as access points: people in finance, risk analysis, languages, political science, history, and similar departments may have the contacts you need.

Friends in U.S. companies may have contacts abroad and may be willing to write letters of introduction for you. They may also identify others who have worked for companies that trade abroad, or give you names of colleagues who might have contacts. In addition, their companies may have commissioned consulting reports that they will lend you. Inquire about unprocessed data collections that the company might be willing to permit you to use for your research. For example, a company might store E-mail tapes or correspondence on projects that were conducted with Mexican or Canadian companies.

You can search the literature on companies and industries by consulting the following directories in your library: American Export Register, Directory of American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries, Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the United States, Directory of Foreign Manufacturers in the United States, U.S. Importers and Exporters Directory, and Who Owns Whom (covers North America, as well as other parts of the world). Check the International Directory of Corporate Affiliations or Dunk America's Corporate Families to find subsidiaries that have names different from the company that owns controlling interest. To get company information, start with Disclosure, which sells annual reports on foreign companies either on-line, on microfiche, or on paper (some in the native language of that country). Disclosure , Predicast, and ABInform also have global compact disks available, which your library may own.

Indexes and periodicals may lead directly to the information you need about a prospective research site. Look at Business Index, the Business Periodicals Index, Predicast F&S, and Public Affairs Information Service. Periodicals and newspapers likely to have articles about companies you could consider as a research site include Journal of Commerce, International Herald Yvibune, London Times, Flnancial Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Economist (which does many extensive reports on countries' industries). …