Reading beyond the lines: themes and cultural values in corporate leaders’ communication

Cindy Sing Bik Ngai*, Rita G SINGH

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The unprecedented economic development and increase in the number of global corporations in the Greater China region, comprising the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong, have led to more emphasis on corporate leader-stakeholder communication. Bilingual web-based messages posted on corporate websites, which aim to strategically cultivate positive relationships between leaders and stakeholders, have emerged as a primary mode of communication for Chinese corporations. However, a research study investigating the prominent themes and underlying cultural values depicted in leaders’ messages intended for different groups of stakeholders is lacking. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the themes and cultural values expressed through corporate leaders’ web-based messages in a non-western context. Design/methodology/approach: Using an inductive approach, open coding and a categorization system, this study analyzed the web-based messages of leading corporations with WordSmith 6.0. Findings: Six prominent themes in leaders’ communication were identified. These themes included, in order of importance: company development, operating philosophy, company profile, business environment, performance, and products and services. It was found that leaders strategically selected certain themes such as focusing on progress and the business environment but omitted others depending on how they wanted to strategically influence their stakeholders’ attitudes. Differences between the cultural values depicted in Chinese and the corresponding English messages could be attributed to leaders’ cultural adaptation of the messages intended for non-domestic stakeholders. Originality/value: Since this study provides insights into the major themes preferred by leaders of corporations operating in Greater China, it will enable existing stakeholders to understand the main business focus of leaders and offer leaders more information about commonly accepted themes. These possibilities for enhanced knowledge on the part of stakeholders and business leaders, in turn, may potentially increase academic appreciation of the complexities involved in corporate communication. It also informs stakeholders about the variations in the values reflected in the English and Chinese messages of leaders, and, therefore, has a potential to offer value to academics and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-232
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management

User-Defined Keywords

  • Communication strategy
  • Corporate communication
  • Corporate media
  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • Public relations


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