Purpose – Companies use figures within the annual report to send messages. The purpose of this paper is to explore the opinions and understandings of annual report preparers who produce the figures and users who interpret them. The focus is on figures that the authors consider convey messages about the company's intellectual capital (IC). Design/methodology/approach – The paper used a questionnaire to obtain the opinions of “informed investors” and conducted interviews with the preparers of the annual reports. It compared the opinions of the two respondent groups. Findings – Preparers and users bring multiple meanings to the figures. Users overlooked some messages which were complex and symbolic and also perceived more messages than intended by the preparers. The two respondent groups generally perceived brands, corporate image building and aspects related to employees as the IC items best portrayed in the selected figures. Most users and some preparers perceived the main reason for using figures was their strength as a marketing tool. Research limitations/implications – The paper is exploratory in nature and there is scope to extend the work to a greater number of annual reports and/or figures. The research is limited by the use of students as a proxy for users of annual reports. Practical implications – The findings may be helpful to annual report preparers in understanding the rhetorical impact of images. Such understanding will help them in choosing figures which are effective and persuasive when seeking user engagement. Originality/value – The authors are not aware of any prior research that examines the perceptions of preparers and users in respect of messages conveyed through figures, and, in particular, research that incorporates aspects of IC in corporate annual report figures. The paper, therefore, extends the empirical literature on IC.
Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 31, 2010
Keywords: Intellectual capital; Corporate communications; Annual reports; Perceptions; Presentation graphics
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