Telling a success story through the president's letter

Journal article


Research Areas

Publication Details

Author list: Martins, A., Gomes, D., Oliveira, L., & Ribeiro, J. L.
Publisher: Emerald
Publication year: 2019
Journal: Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management (1176-6093)
Volume number: 16
Issue number: 3
Start page: 403
End page: 433
Number of pages: 31
ISSN: 1176-6093
Languages: English-Great Britain (EN-GB)


Purpose – This paper explores the role of storytelling and Impression Management (IM) through the president’s letter in legitimizing the practices of an electricity company with regard to controversial issues during a period of change. Design/methodology – Drawing on a qualitative case study, this paper examines annual report letters from 1995 to 2013 using a methodological interpretative approach. Findings – By promoting a success story using IM, the presidents give sense to particular actions related with controversial issues and attempt to influence expectations on strategic changes. The findings demonstrate that organizational actors use the flexibility of the president’s letter to tell the story and emphasize its self-laudatory nature. The study highlights that storytelling in these documents can be used to alleviate the tensions created by the inherent contradictions of social structures. Practical implications –This research is useful for regulatory authorities, users of annual reports as well as academic researchers, making them attentive of the narratives companies may adopt to protect their legitimacy. The findings shed light on the need to evaluate the credibility of accountability mechanisms and can help stakeholders to develop a more critical view of the president’s letter. Originality/value – This paper makes a contribution to research on communication issues by expanding literature on accounting and organizational storytelling. By demonstrating how presidents use sensegiving as a means of legitimacy-claiming, this study adds to the literature on legitimating accounts. In doing so, this paper bridges the gap between theories about organizational legitimacy, storytelling, and IM. To sum up, the findings serve as an incremental step toward understanding the nature of accountability reporting.


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Last updated on 2019-12-09 at 12:14