Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 126, Issue 1, pp 143–165 | Cite as

Impression Management and Organizational Audiences: The Fiat Group Case

  • Saverio Bozzolan
  • Charles H. Cho
  • Giovanna MichelonEmail author


In this paper we investigate whether, and how, corporate management strategically uses disclosure to manage the perceptions of different organizational audiences. In particular, we examine the interactions between the FIAT Group and three of its key organizational audiences—the local press, the international press, and the financial analysts, which are characterized by different levels of salience for the company. We focus on both how management reacts to the optimism level existing within each audience and how the narrative disclosure tone adopted by FIAT influences the ex-post optimism in the local and international press or in the financial analyst community. We investigate the disclosure of the FIAT Group over a 6-year period (2004–2009), during which 70 price-sensitive press releases were published. On the basis of 1,887 (331) news articles published in Italian (international) newspapers and 411 analyst reports, we report evidence of different strategic patterns in the interaction processes between FIAT and its audiences. Our findings also indicate some differences in the way FIAT is affected by, and in turn, affects the sentiment of each audience, thus highlighting that the salience of the stakeholder is an important driver of the adoption of impression management techniques. Taken together, our findings point to issues related to setting the “tone at the top” and potential ethical matters.


Impression management Optimism Organizational audiences Press releases Salience Narrative disclosure tone 



We appreciate the helpful comments provided by Qiang Guo, Davide Raggi, and participants of the 9th Workshop on Empirical Research in Financial Accounting (Gran Canaria), the 74th Annual Congress 2012 German Academic Association for Business Research (VHB) (Bozen), and the research seminar at the University of Padova. We also thank Elisa Scarparo for her excellent research assistance. Saverio Bozzolan and Giovanna Michelon gratefully acknowledge financial support received from the Italian Ministry of Research (MIUR) under project #PRIN2009: “From governance and risk management rules to performance: roles, tools and enabling conditions in Italian firms”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saverio Bozzolan
    • 1
  • Charles H. Cho
    • 2
  • Giovanna Michelon
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Economics and ManagementUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Accounting and Management ControlESSEC Business SchoolCergy Pontoise CedexFrance
  3. 3.University of Exeter Business SchoolStreatham Court, Rennes DriveExeterUK
  4. 4.University of PadovaPaduaItaly

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