Positioning and branding of CEOs, CFOs, and other executives (CxO) are practices at the intersection of corporate communication and marketing. Especially in the context of digital media and social networking sites, more and more CxO are speaking out on socio-political issues or engaging in thought leadership activities. And with this, organizations strategically use (self-)personalization in reputation and impression management. However, from an academic perspective, there is a lack of both a) systematization of theoretical conceptualizations and discussion of empirical findings, and b) studies on "how is it done?" and "with what impact in relation to what stakeholders?".
Thus, this project starts by (1) systematically reviewing the scope and development of the academic discourse(s) on strategically spotlighting business leaders across relevant but distinct fields. These findings will then be followed with (2) professionals’ in-depth insights on the management process of CxO communication on LinkedIn. Next, (3) LinkedIn postings by executives of listed corporations from the last twenty years are collected and analyzed. And in the last step, (4) consequences and dynamics, in terms of engagement of key stakeholders with these CxO postings, are evaluated
This PhD project draws from various interdisciplinary research to better understand the relationship between finance and strategic communications for sustainable finance (SF). The project starts with a literature review to identify message frames that can be used to effectively communicate sustainable finance to investors. In the second study, machine learning and AI methods such as natural language processing are utilized to analyze corporate annual reports of the top 100 global companies by market capitalization. The aim is to analyze how companies communicate their sustainability messages, the language and sentiment used to convey their sustainable efforts to investors, and how this has evolved between 2011-2021. In the third study, communication and investor relation officers of international financial institutions in Switzerland are interviewed about risk communication strategies aimed at investors, such as those to mitigate reputational risk when being confronted with scandals about Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) violations. For the final study, a content analysis and time series analysis are performed on the coverage of ESG news from international financial news media sources and the effects the coverage has on investors’ decision to purchase sustainable investment products.
While sustainable investing is becoming more prevalent in the financial sector, the sustainable finance (SF) industry is facing increasing allegations and criticism lately, including from organizational members and investors. Using a mixed methods approach, this PhD project first investigates how the news media provide a platform for whistleblowers in SF – who can be perceived as opinion leaders (OLs) in the corporate realm – to raise their voices and spread criticism in the public realm. Second, the thesis turns to social media to examine how and why OLs, in the role of hateholders, negatively engage with the topic of SF during COP27. Along the same lines, investors are increasingly voicing their dissatisfaction on social media regarding SF, potentially leading to debates and strong demands for change. One international debate that has recently come back into the public eye concerns the influence of the financial lobby on SF politics. In the third study, this project aims to provide insights into how financial lobbying on SF drives investors’ negative engagement behavior on social media, and how it affects SF policymaking.