This chapter introduces students to the importance of a situation analysis–perhaps the most important element of a strategic communication plan. A properly researched situation analysis identifies the issues a plan should address and thus the target publics and potential messages, and it informs what goals and objectives are required.

The chapter defines issues and stresses the need to provide clients with an analysis that sets out the contexts in which the issues are important to an organisation. It explores research and analytical methods, suggests potential additional sources of information, and how the results should be used in strategic communication planning. It connects issues analysis for a communication strategy to the time horizons approach for strategic business planning.

After working through the chapter, students should be able to identify the communication needs of an organisation, recognise the roles of formal and informal research in communication planning, and understand importance of analysing research data.

These learning outcomes lead to a recognition that the success of a communication strategy depends on the correct analysis of issues facing an organisation and that effective formative research underpins that analysis.