Metaphor and audience reactions

In a range of projects, we investigate how metaphor helps audiences make sense of corporate action--both in the domain of corporate strategy and in the domain of sustainability in particular.

Market Response to War Language: Source Domains and the Role of Metaphorical Fit (with João Cotter Salvado)

Most top executives use some form of metaphorical communication to convey their strategies. Though management research has largely treated metaphor as a single category of language, metaphors vary in their source domains, i.e., the conceptual domains (such as war or racing) from which expressions are drawn. Combining conceptual metaphor theory and the risk-as-affect perspective, we argue that the source domain is critical to understanding the effect of metaphor on investor reactions. In particular, by underscoring the high stakes inherent in an announced strategy, war language is uniquely suited to generating risk perception and negative sentiment, whereby the effect may be attenuated according to the context facing the firm and investors’ own risk preferences. We find consistent evidence for these hypotheses in an archival study and an experiment. Our findings advance a cognitive-linguistic perspective on investor response to strategy disclosures.

Social Enterprise and Conveying the Future (with Cédric Gutierrez Moreno and Keun Woo Jeong)

In this paper we analyze the language of social entrepreneurs, connecting it to their fundraising success. Based on an analysis of venture pitches, we find that the mechanisms of distancing (making the future appear further away) and presencing (making the future appear closer) are important predictors of success. Presencing is usually beneficial, but distancing can be effective when the venture simultaneously focuses on short-term financial returns. We also replicate these studies in a laboratory experiment.