Communication strategies in financial disclosure
Communication is concerned with “messages, information, meaning, and symbolic activity” (Putnam and Cheney, 1985, p. 131) and affects every aspect of our daily lives. It produces our matrix of appreciation and perception as it determines how we make sense of the world around us and how we perceive ourselves and others. It is both constitutive and a product of social relationships. For any business organisation, communication thus plays a crucial role in managing relations with external parties via reporting on the outcomes of its activities. Financial reporting is one of the primary means whereby managers communicate with investors and other stakeholders. Managers provide an account to investors and other stakeholders of the financial and other performance of their company in order to legitimize their actions. The course focuses in particular on communication strategies that can be observed in financial disclosure produced by the companies. The attention is also given to the regulatory aspect of financial disclosure requirements and discursive strategies that affect regulatory processes that determine what corporate information is reported on.
The course explores relevant theoretical frameworks as well as having a strong practical element, using real-world examples and illustrations from the corporate and accounting regulatory world. It addresses corporate reporting from the perspective of communication strategies used by managers and accounting regulators to legitimize their actions. It also discusses the often overlooked importance of cognitive biases in the communication processes.
The main objective of the course is to explore why communication within corporate reporting is worthy of careful scrutiny, not just in what social actors say, but how they say it and the legitimation strategies they use.
Outline of the syllabus
- Different types of financial disclosure and the evolution of corporate reporting
- Main stakeholders and interest groups inhabiting the field in which financial disclosure has developed over time
- The persuasive and performative aspects of narrative and numerical disclosures
- Communication strategies and their applications in financial disclosure
- How financial disclosure is used by investors/stakeholders in a changing world. The evolution from investing to trading to gambling and how communication and information facilitates business decisions
- The regulatory infrastructure of financial disclosure; the role of the accounting bodies and the accountants who act as implementers and interpreters of financial disclosures
- The role of communication strategies in legitimation processes; a contestation for the right to name and define what is ‘good’, that is, ‘useful’ financial disclosure
- Economic rationality versus behavioral economics - how cognitive biases shape how we perceive and act within the world and the impact they have upon communication strategies
- Communication strategies that are adapted when crises of legitimacy arise – examples of corporate scandals
Teaching and assessment
In addition to attending classes, students will be required to give presentation on the relevant topics and read both academic & professional journal articles. The reading list will be provided prior to the commencement of the course. The course assessment will be based on:
- in-class oral presentation (30%)
- open-book written exam (70%).