The informativeness of impression management: Financial analysts and rhetorical style of CEO letters

Beibei Yan, Walter Aerts, James Thewissen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    Abstract

    Purpose
    This paper aims to investigate the informativeness of rhetorical impression management patterns of CEO letters and examines whether these rhetorical features affect financial analysts’ forecasting behavior.

    Design/methodology/approach
    The authors use textual analysis on a sample of 526 CEO letters of US firms and apply factor analysis on individual linguistic style measures to identify co-occurrence patterns of style features.

    Findings
    The authors identify three holistic style patterns (assertive acclaiming, cautious plausibility-based framing and logic-based rationalizing) and find that assertive rhetorical feature in CEO letters is negatively related with the dispersion of financial analysts’ earnings forecasts and positively associated with earnings forecast accuracy. CEOs’ use of a rationalizing rhetorical pattern tends to decrease the dispersion of financial analysts’ earnings, whereas a cautious plausibility-based rhetorical position is only marginally instrumental in getting more accurate earnings predictions.

    Practical implications
    Whilst impression management communication is often theorized as manipulative and void of real information content, the findings suggest that impression management serves both self-presentation and information-sharing purposes.

    Originality/value
    This paper elaborates on the co-occurrence of style characteristics in management communication and is a first attempt to validate the external ramifications of holistic style profiles of corporate narratives by focusing on an economic target audience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)462-496
    JournalPacific Accounting Review
    Volume31
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

    Keywords

    • Impression management
    • letter to shareholders
    • analyst forecasts
    • linguistic properties
    • rhetorical style

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