The purpose of this paper is to longitudinally analyse the evolution of multiple narrative textual characteristics in the chairman’s statements of Guinness from 1948 to 1996, with the aim of studying impression management influences. It attempts to contribute insights on impression management over time.
The paper attempts to contribute to external accounting communication literature, by building on the socio-psychological tradition within the functionalist-behavioural transmission perspective. The paper analyses multiple textual characteristics (positive, negative, tentative, future and external references, length, numeric references and first person pronouns) over 49 years and their potential relationship to profitability. Other possible disclosure drivers are also controlled.
The findings show that Guinness consistently used qualitative textual characteristics with a self-serving bias, but did not use those with a more quantitative character. Continual profits achieved by the company, and the high corporate/personal reputation of the company/chairpersons, inter alia, may well explain limited evidence of impression management associated with quantitative textual characteristics. The context appears related to the evolution of the broad communication pattern.
Impression management is likely to be present in some form in corporate disclosures of most companies, not only those companies with losses. If successful, financial reporting quality may be undermined and capital misallocations may result. Companies with a high public exposure such as those with a high reputation or profitability may use impression management in a different way.
Studies analysing multiple textual characteristics in corporate narratives tend to focus on different companies in a single year, or in two consecutive years. This study analyses multiple textual characteristics over many consecutive years. It also gives an original historical perspective, by studying how impression management relates to its context, as demonstrated by a unique data set. In addition, by using the same company, the possibility that different corporate characteristics between companies will affect results is removed. Moreover, Guinness, a well-known international company, was somewhat unique as it achieved continual profits.
This research was partially funded by the UJA/2015/06/04 project from the Universidad de Jaén. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and Lee Parker for their many constructive comments. This paper has also benefited from comments on earlier drafts at the 40th annual congress of the European Accounting Association held in Valencia (Spain) in 2017, the 21st Financial Reporting and Business Communication Annual Conference held in Durham (UK) in 2017 and research seminars in RMIT University, Melbourne (Australia) and Macquarie University, Sydney (Australia), both in 2017. The authors also express thanks to Eibhlin Colgan at the Guinness archive.
Moreno, A., Jones, M.J. and Quinn, M. (2019), "A longitudinal study of the textual characteristics in the chairman’s statements of Guinness: An impression management perspective", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 1714-1741. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-01-2018-3308
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