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 corporations communicate with investors and other stakeholders. Namely, they provide information regarding the financial and (and recently more increasingly) non-financial, that, is social and environmental, effects of their activities.
The course focuses on the most recent financial disclosure innovations that address new challenges that companies face in the ‘age of corporate responsibilization’ (Reinecke & Ansari, 2016). It also explores the often overlooked importance of inherent subjectivity in corporate disclosure (Stenka, 2021).
Outline of the syllabus
- Forms 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
- Most recent corporate reporting innovations in the area of the ‘enlightened’ shareholder (sustainability and integrated reporting)
- The economic (i.e., capital market) and broader social implications of numerical and narrative components of corporate reports
- The persuasive and performative aspects of narrative and numerical disclosure
- Communication strategies and their applications in financial disclosure
- Economic rationality versus behavioural 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
The main objective of the course is to explore why communication within corporate reporting is worthy of careful scrutiny, not just in what corporate actors say, but how they say it and the specific legitimation strategies they use.
The course will focus on the most recent corporate reporting innovations that respond to a growing expectation within society that businesses should be accountable for more than just the financial aspects of their activities. In this new era of enlightened corporate citizenship, businesses must act, or at least be seen to act, in ways that consider broader sustainability issues.
The course examines relevant theoretical frameworks as well as having a strong practical element, using real-world examples and illustrations from the corporate world. Students will be expected to demonstrate how the theoretical foundations they have learned during the course could be applied to better understand current financial reporting practice.
In addition to attending classes, students will be required to prepare and give presentations on the relevant topics, and engage in group discussions informed by both academic & professional journal articles.
Students will be given opportunities to develop transferrable skills of team working and leadership as well as critical thinking and analytical engagement with complex subject material.
- oral group presentation (20%)
- written exam (80%)