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‘I am proud to be on this team and believe that our best days are ahead’ : stance in corporate reports

Fuoli, Matteo LU (2016) ICAME 37
Abstract
This article presents a corpus-based analysis of stance (e.g. Biber, 2006; Biber and Finegan, 1989; Biber et al., 1999; Conrad and Biber, 2000) in a specialized corpus of annual and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. Annual reports and CSR reports are key genres of business public discourse. Annual reports are primarily addressed to shareholders and investors, and include both legally-required and voluntary information about a company’s financial situation. CSR reports target a broader audience of stakeholders, and provide information about a company’s social and environmental performance.
While a substantial amount of work has been conducted to describe the discursive features of these two genres, they have not, to date,... (More)
This article presents a corpus-based analysis of stance (e.g. Biber, 2006; Biber and Finegan, 1989; Biber et al., 1999; Conrad and Biber, 2000) in a specialized corpus of annual and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. Annual reports and CSR reports are key genres of business public discourse. Annual reports are primarily addressed to shareholders and investors, and include both legally-required and voluntary information about a company’s financial situation. CSR reports target a broader audience of stakeholders, and provide information about a company’s social and environmental performance.
While a substantial amount of work has been conducted to describe the discursive features of these two genres, they have not, to date, been compared to each other. But how do companies present themselves to investors and stakeholders in annual and CSR reports? How do they use evaluative language resources to shape their identity and promote a positive corporate image to the specific audiences that these texts address? And, are there any differences in the way companies portray themselves in these two text types? This article seeks address these questions. Based on the assumption that “organisations can be viewed as subsuming a multiplicity of identities, each of which is appropriate for a given context or audience” (Gioia, 1998: 21), it examines how companies use evaluative language in annual and CSR reports to highlight different traits of their corporate persona, in the attempt to maximize the persuasive impact of their communication.
To that aim, a comparative corpus-based analysis of stance constructions is carried out on a specialized corpus of annual and CSR reports recently published by a sample of large multinational corporations. Stance resources play an important role in how speakers express their opinions, negotiate their identity, ‘position’ themselves with respect to their interlocutors, and manage their own credibility and that of the information they convey (Du Bois, 2007; Englebretson, 2007; Hyland, 2005; Martin and White, 2005; Thompson and Hunston, 2000). They are, therefore, highly relevant to the persuasive goals of annual and CSR reports. In this study, corpus-based techniques are used to quantify stance expressions in the texts under study. Stance markers are automatically identified based on lists of stance words taken from
previous studies. Concordances are then manually inspected to remove false positives from the results. The frequency and functions of these expressions in annual and CSR reports are then compared, and differences discussed in relation to the questions posed above.
The results reveal significant differences in the frequency and functions of stance expressions in annual and CSR reports, which reflect two markedly different approaches to the discursive construction of corporate identity. In annual reports, companies foreground an objective and emotionally-detached self, and strive to show that they are far-sighted and in control of the situation. Conversely, CSR reports are more explicitly subjective and persuasive. In these texts, companies use stance resources to portray themselves as committed corporate citizens, and to establish empathy and alignment with their audience. (Less)
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organization
publishing date
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Contribution to conference
publication status
published
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keywords
Stance, Corporate identity, corporate communications, Annual Report, CSR reports, Business Ethics, Discourse analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, Corpus Linguistics
conference name
ICAME 37
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
63942e4a-1a56-4bfa-ae4f-5d1804fddbc5
date added to LUP
2016-06-07 18:21:14
date last changed
2016-09-20 16:20:33
@misc{63942e4a-1a56-4bfa-ae4f-5d1804fddbc5,
  abstract     = {This article presents a corpus-based analysis of stance (e.g. Biber, 2006; Biber and Finegan, 1989; Biber et al., 1999; Conrad and Biber, 2000) in a specialized corpus of annual and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. Annual reports and CSR reports are key genres of business public discourse. Annual reports are primarily addressed to shareholders and investors, and include both legally-required and voluntary information about a company’s financial situation. CSR reports target a broader audience of stakeholders, and provide information about a company’s social and environmental performance.<br/>While a substantial amount of work has been conducted to describe the discursive features of these two genres, they have not, to date, been compared to each other. But how do companies present themselves to investors and stakeholders in annual and CSR reports? How do they use evaluative language resources to shape their identity and promote a positive corporate image to the specific audiences that these texts address? And, are there any differences in the way companies portray themselves in these two text types? This article seeks address these questions. Based on the assumption that “organisations can be viewed as subsuming a multiplicity of identities, each of which is appropriate for a given context or audience” (Gioia, 1998: 21), it examines how companies use evaluative language in annual and CSR reports to highlight different traits of their corporate persona, in the attempt to maximize the persuasive impact of their communication.<br/>To that aim, a comparative corpus-based analysis of stance constructions is carried out on a specialized corpus of annual and CSR reports recently published by a sample of large multinational corporations. Stance resources play an important role in how speakers express their opinions, negotiate their identity, ‘position’ themselves with respect to their interlocutors, and manage their own credibility and that of the information they convey (Du Bois, 2007; Englebretson, 2007; Hyland, 2005; Martin and White, 2005; Thompson and Hunston, 2000). They are, therefore, highly relevant to the persuasive goals of annual and CSR reports. In this study, corpus-based techniques are used to quantify stance expressions in the texts under study. Stance markers are automatically identified based on lists of stance words taken from<br/>previous studies. Concordances are then manually inspected to remove false positives from the results. The frequency and functions of these expressions in annual and CSR reports are then compared, and differences discussed in relation to the questions posed above.<br/>The results reveal significant differences in the frequency and functions of stance expressions in annual and CSR reports, which reflect two markedly different approaches to the discursive construction of corporate identity. In annual reports, companies foreground an objective and emotionally-detached self, and strive to show that they are far-sighted and in control of the situation. Conversely, CSR reports are more explicitly subjective and persuasive. In these texts, companies use stance resources to portray themselves as committed corporate citizens, and to establish empathy and alignment with their audience.},
  author       = {Fuoli, Matteo},
  keyword      = {Stance,Corporate identity,corporate communications,Annual Report,CSR reports,Business Ethics,Discourse analysis,Critical Discourse Analysis,Corpus Linguistics},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {‘I am proud to be on this team and believe that our best days are ahead’ : stance in corporate reports},
  year         = {2016},
}