INVESTOR RELATIONS IN A CONTEMPORARY, DIGITAL CULTURE

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1 INVESTOR RELATIONS IN A CONTEMPORARY, DIGITAL CULTURE A case study of FLSmidth s financial communication situation and the introduction of a new communication technology Author: Anna Mølgaard Hansen Cand.ling.merc. Master s thesis Pages: 74 Characters (incl. spaces)/normal pages: /79 Spelling: British English Supervisor: Henrik Køhler Simonsen Department of International Business Communication (IBC) Copenhagen Business School May 2013

2 Content Abstract (in Danish)... 4 List of illustrations... 5 List of appendices Introduction Introduction to thesis topic and motivation Problem area and definition Research questions Hypothesis Project delimitations Definitions Methodology Philosophy and theory of science Methodological approach The interpretation of meaning Phenomenology The role of the researcher - Hermeneutics Research design Methods and data collection FLSmidth as a case study Theory Theoretical approach The communication situation Model of a communication situation Social construction of technology Descriptive model of SCOT Media Richness Theory Message complexity Media richness Strategy of analysis Analysis & Discussion FLSmidth s communication situation Sender Receiver Context Genre Medium Code Social construction of mobile communication Relevant social groups Stabilisation process Technological frame Message complexity and media richness Complexity of FLSmidth s communication messages

3 Media richness of mobile communication Effective communication Discussion of findings and results Recommendations and future implications for FLSmidth Conclusion Perspective References Appendices Question guide in Danish Question guide in English Transcript for interview Transcript for interview Transcript for interview Answers to questionnaire Answers to questionnaire Answers to questionnaire Answers to questionnaire Communication models of Jakobson (1979), Frandsen et al. (2002) and Ditlevsen et al. (2007) Page view statistics of

4 Abstract (in Danish) Dansk titel: Investor Relations i en nutidig, digital kultur et casestudie af FLSmidths finansielle kommunikationssituation og introduktionen af en ny kommunikationsteknologi Den løbende udvikling af nye kommunikationsteknologier opfordrer hele tiden virksomheder til at reevaluere deres digitale kommunikationsindsats og strategier. Denne afhandling undersøger, hvordan mobilkommunikation relaterer sig til FLSmidths nuværende kommunikationssituation og den potentielle implementering af et nyt kommunikationsmedium. Dette afdækkes via en analyse baseret på tre integrerede teoretiske fokusområder. Først analyseres det, hvad der konstituerer FLSmidths kommunikationssituation ud fra klassisk kommunikationsteori af Roman Jakobson (1979), Frandsen et al. (2002) og Ditlevsen et al. (2007). Hernæst bliver det analyseret, hvad der konstituerer mobilkommunikation med udgangspunkt i Wiebe E. Bijkers teori om socialkonstruktion af teknologi (1987). Tredje del af analysen anvender resultaterne fra de to første dele og analyserer med afsæt i Richard L. Dafts og Robert H. Lengels medieteori (1983), hvordan FLSmidths finansielle budskaber matcher mobilkommunikations kapacitet til at facilitere forståelse. Problemformuleringen søges besvaret på baggrund af et social konstruktivistisk, fænomenologisk og hermeneutisk metodisk og empirisk grundlag. En central modtagergruppe af FLSmidths investorkommunikation, finansanalytikerne, undersøges kvalitativt, og til at understøtte dette kvalitative empirigrundlag anvendes en mængde empirisk materiale af kvantitativ karakter i form af allerede udfærdiget rapporter, spørgeskemaundersøgelser og analyser. Afhandlingen konkluderer på baggrund af teoretisk fundament og empiriske beviser, at mobilkommunikation ikke er et anvendeligt medium til investorkommunikation og dermed som en del af FLSmidths kommunikationssituation. På baggrund af FLSmidths position som en børsnoteret virksomhed og den foranderlige karakter af virksomhedens finansielle position og udvikling konkluderes det, at FLSmidths finansielle budskaber er komplekse og derfor primært kræver medier, der kan facilitere personlig uddybelse, diskussion og forståelse mellem afsender og modtager krav mobilkommunikation som medium ikke kan leve op til. Mobilkommunikations utilstrækkelighed, hvad dette angår, påvirker de undersøgte finansanalytikere, der foretrækker medier, der tillader interaktion og opfølgning. 4

5 List of illustrations Illustration 2.1: Approach to methodology (created for the purposes of this thesis with inspiration from John Kuada, 2012, p. 58) Illustration 3.1: Theoretical framework (created for the purposes of this thesis) Illustration 3.2: Model of a communication situation (created for the purposes of this thesis) Illustration 3.3: Descriptive model of SCOT (created for the purposes of this thesis) Illustration 3.4: Integrated equivocality and uncertainty framework (created for the purposes of this thesis with inspiration from Daft & Lengel, 1986, p. 557) Illustration 3.5: Media richness hierarchy (adopted by Lengel & Daft, 1988, p. 226) Illustration 3.6: Strategy of analysis (created for the purposes of this thesis) Illustration 4.1: Example of investor communication genre analysis (created for the purposes of this thesis) Illustration 4.2: Relevant social groups (figure created for the purposes of this thesis) Illustration 4.3: Screen shots of regular and zoomed in view of financial data table on smart phone Illustration 4.4: Screen shots of page view statistics of from 2011 and 2012 Illustration 4.5: FLSmidth s communication message complexity Illustration 4.6: Mobile communication placed in the media richness hierarchy List of appendices Appendix 1: Question guide in Danish Appendix 2: Question guide in English Appendix 3: Transcript for interview 1 (Danish) Appendix 4: Transcript for interview 2 (Danish) Appendix 5: Transcript for interview 3 (Danish) Appendix 6: Answers to questionnaire 1 (Danish) Appendix 7: Answers to questionnaire 2 (Danish) Appendix 8: Answers to questionnaire 3 (English) Appendix 9: Answers to questionnaire 4 (English) Appendix 10: Communication models of Jakobson (1979), Frandsen et al. (2002) and Ditlevsen et al. (2007) Appendix 11: Page view statistics of 5

6 1. Introduction In the present chapter, thesis topic and motivation are introduced. Hereafter, the problem area and definition are presented along with a number of research questions and a hypothesis. Following on this, project delimitations and a list of definitions essential to the context of this thesis are offered Introduction to thesis topic and motivation As a result of the pace at which we see technology develop today, companies are constantly presented with new ways of communicating with their stakeholders. New communication technologies evolve quickly and continuously, and as they do, requirements and expectations of companies communication evolve as well. As one theorist summarises the development: Today we are in the middle of a new media revolution (Manovich, 2001, p. 19). Following this line of thought, most would agree on the direction communication technology is moving today: The future is digital. New media theorists argue that the Western world has developed from a print culture through an electronic culture to a digital culture a digital culture which is constituted by emerging sets of values, practices and expectations about how individuals and organisations ought to communicate and interact (Deuze, 2006, p. 63). Working in the Corporate Communications and Investor Relations department in one of Denmark s biggest companies, FLSmidth, myself, it is the corporate aspect of digital communication technology application that lures my attention. The 21 st century s digital culture, which FLSmidth is embedded in, is primarily based on a worldview of networks that centres on people s increasing use of the Internet. Significant to this digital culture, and heavily related to people s explosive use of the Internet, is the phenomenon of mobile communication 1. Mobile communication constitutes the major trend of mobile devices 2 increasingly being used to access information information which would otherwise be accessed via a computer. Currently, 1.2 billion people worldwide are mobile web users the equivalent of 17% of the world s population. From 2011 to 2012 alone, the number of mobile web users doubled, and it is expected that by 2015 the number of mobile web users will have outgrown the number of desktop web users (CultureLabel, 2012, 24 Feb.). More than 300,000 mobile applications are currently available trough Apple s App Store alone and have been downloaded 10.9 billion times so far. The number of downloads is expected to increase to 76.9 billion by 2014 (MobiThinking.com, 2012, Dec.). Thus, the development in mobile communication adoption and 1 For a definition of mobile communication, please see the section 1.4 on Definitions. 2 For a definition of mobile devices, please see the section 1.4 on Definitions. 6

7 embracement can hardly be ignored. Consequently, FLSmidth, currently not engaging in mobile communication, is in the process of evaluating the application opportunities of this technology for the purposes of its investor communication, taking into consideration its financial communication agenda as a listed company as well as the requirements of its stakeholders, all dependent on the information FLSmidth discloses. Leading the movement and co-constructing of the trend of mobile communication in business society today, is the concept of mobile first as originally presented by Luke Wroblewski (2011a). From a technical point of view, he states that companies should design their web experiences for mobile devices before designing for desktop and laptop computers. This is argued to force organisations to sharpen content and messaging in their web experiences as a whole and, at the same time, prepare them for the explosive growth and new business opportunities the revolution of mobile communication arguably will continue to bring about. The concept of mobile first is permeating the world of business communication getting CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, to declare: The simple guideline is whatever you are doing do mobile first (Wroblewski, 2011b, 21 Feb.) and CTO of Adobe, Kevin Lynch, following up, stating: We really need to shift to think about mobile first This is a bigger shift than we even saw with the personal computer revolution (Wroblewski, 2010, 27 Oct.). Now, let s turn to the case of FLSmidth. It is a listed company, listed on the NASDAQ OMX Copenhagen stock exchange, currently operating in more than 50 countries with employees and external stakeholders in all corners of the world. At the heart of FLSmidth s corporate communication efforts lies the function of Investor Relations (IR). The department of Corporate Communications and IR manages FLSmidth s interaction with the owners of the company, that is, its current investors and shareholders, as well as potential investors and shareholders, financial analysts and financial journalists. In my department, there is an ongoing discussion of whether we should embrace the trend of mobile communication, and if so, how. Key to this discussion is the fact that FLSmidth is a listed company, placing certain legal requirements on and expectations to what and when FLSmidth has to communicate certain information about certain activities and developments of the company, corporate governance and financial results. The company s position as a listed company results in a very interesting communication situation: Not only are very specific demands placed on the company by Danish and European legislation, but FLSmidth also has to cater to a very demanding group of financial communication receivers, expecting certain requirements to be fulfilled by FLSmidth in terms of information specifics, timing and accessibility. It is the challenges provided by this specific communication situation in the context of the option to engage in mobile communication that drive my motivation for exploring this in-depth. 7

8 Further contributing to my motivation to research the case of FLSmidth s communication situation in this light is a recent survey conducted by the Danish Investor Relations Society (DIRF). This study shows that 46.7% of Danish and international financial analysts prefer to get IR information via telephone conversations, where 31.1% prefer it via (Dansk Investor Relations Forening, 2012, p. 6). These numbers show that a significant part of this particular target group prefer traditional forms of communication to cover their information needs. This only adds to the complexity of FLSmidth s communication situation, as it indicates that creating the best possible lines of communication might not be as simple as placing future attention and resources on the development of mobile communication alone. Though we keep the DIRF survey in mind, one thing is still certain; when a new communication technology offers itself both to FLSmidth and its entire audience, it leaves the company in a new communication situation where it is necessary to analyse the relationship between message content, sender/receiver characteristics and the new mobile communication medium. The set expectations of FLSmidth s communication efforts held up against a new communication technology creates, for me, a highly noteworthy and fascinating setting for the strategic aspects FLSmidth has to consider regarding how to communicate now and in the future Problem area and definition The ongoing development of new communication technologies leaves companies having to continuously reevaluate their digital communication efforts and strategies. How do we wish to communicate? Where do we wish to communicate? And last but not least, how do we communicate as effectively as possible? How these questions are answered, and not least the planning that goes into finding the answers to these questions, present a challenge to every company and have contributed greatly to the idea generation of this thesis. The purpose of this thesis is therefore to examine: How does the new communication technology, mobile communication, relate to FLSmidth s current communication situation and the potential adoption of a new communication medium? Research questions The following research questions have been created in order to work structurally with the problem definition and the implications it entails: 8

9 1. What constitutes FLSmidth s communication situation, and what defines each of the constituents making it up? 2. What constitutes the new communication technology, mobile communication? 3. How does FLSmidth s financial communication messages match mobile communication s capacity to facilitate understanding? Hypothesis Accepting the argument that the western world currently is embedded in a digital culture that prompts companies to constantly evaluate how to communicate and embrace new communication technologies, the following hypothesis has been created: In order to communicate effectively in a contemporary, digital culture, FLSmidth should optimise its investor communication to mobile devices Project delimitations Working with the case of FLSmidth and the potential adoption of the new communication technology of mobile communication to its communication situation in the context of this thesis and in relation to the research questions as set out above, a number of related, and to a certain degree obvious, aspects of the area of research have been carefully disregarded and omitted in order to create a defined and focused frame of analysis. Hence, this thesis does not include an analysis of the economic aspects and considerations of adopting a new communication technology in the case of FLSmidth. Costs and Return on Investment (ROI) related to pursuing a communication strategy that includes the optimisation of current digital, financial communication to mobile devices are therefore not discussed. Considering the economic and cost-related aspects of any communication project is of course essential to any modern, professional company. The ROI related to optimising FLSmidth s digital, investor communication by expanding it to mobile devices should be compared to that of other potential projects which could be initiated instead in order to optimise FLSmidth s financial communication, before implementing any changes. However, the focus of this thesis remains on the potential introduction of mobile communication and how the technology relates to FLSmidth s current communication situation regardless of costs and resources. 9

10 1.4. Definitions The term mobile communication is throughout this thesis defined in terms of three technical approaches to the technology. The three approaches comprise mobile websites, web apps and native apps. For a full description and discussion of the three approaches, see section 4.2. Mobile devices refer in this thesis to smart phones on the one hand and tablets on the other. These two groupings of mobile devices do not take into consideration the difference between the many models and brands that exist on the market for smart phones and tablets, but rather focus on smart phones as one category of mobile devices and tablets as another. Marking the difference between the mobile device groupings is primarily the recognised difference in screen size and situational applicability. For an elaboration and discussion of mobile devices and their significance to the technology of mobile communication, see section 4.2. In this thesis, the terms investor, financial, corporate and IR communication are equalled. This is due to the fact that the terms refer to communication directed at the same overall target group, namely that of FLSmidth s investment community in general and the financial analysts covering FLSmidth in particular. For elaboration and discussion, see section , and

11 2. Methodology As depicted in the illustration below, any choice of philosophic outset is irrevocably tied to the choice of methodological approach as well as means of data collection. Because of this interrelatedness, which we shall look at in-depth in the coming pages, these areas are presented together in this chapter, allowing the reader in on the scientific vantage point of this thesis. Following the order presented below, this section firstly presents the philosophical dimension of this research work, including the epistemological choices made, followed by the methodological approach and research design through the means of method and data collection. Philosophy and theory of science Human beings and their social environment codetermine each other. Individuals construct their own social world in the interaction with others. Social constructivism. Epistemological choice The social world must be studied intersubjectively in order to obtain full understanding of the subjects and social events studied. Methodological approach Schools of phenomenology and hermeneutics. Research design: Methods and data collection Qualitative research interviews. Empirical data collection of existing research. Illustration 2.1: Approach to methodology (created for the purposes of this thesis with inspiration from John Kuada, 2012, p. 58) 2.1. Philosophy and theory of science The nature of what I, the researcher, seek to know through this piece of research, otherwise known as the ontology guiding this thesis, is based on a basic belief that the social world is subjectively constructed and therefore a product of human cognition. This means that the social world and the phenomena in it are meaningless until individuals recognise them as real and meaningful. Taking this social constructivist 11

12 position thus means a belief in that the social environment and the individual codetermine each other (Kuada, 2012, p. 59). Central to the social constructivist school of thought is the notion that societal phenomena are not eternal and immutable, but rather exist through historical and social processes. Social constructivism hence implies a perspective of change. If social phenomena are historical and socially determined it also means they are historically mutable, meaning if social phenomena are created by humans actions, they can also be changed by the very same humans actions (Rasborg, 2004, p. 349). In the case of FLSmidth what this implies, is the acknowledgement that FLSmidth and the constituencies making up and implicating its communication situation are constructed by as well as co-constructing the social world they operate in. As social actors, FLSmidth and its stakeholders are constantly affected by social phenomena, including breakthroughs and advancements in digital communication technology. At the same time, FLSmidth is dependent on social actors engaging in their business and their experiences of FLSmidth as a social institution, including the central target group of FLSmidth s investor communication; the financial analysts. From a scientific theoretical point of view, social constructivism is opposed to realism. The realism school of thought claims that reality is an objective reality, which exists independent of our acknowledgment of it. Implied here is furthermore a clear separation between the studied object and the studying subject, meaning the subject is able the study the object, independent of it. Social constructivism, on the other hand, claims that our knowledge and cognition is not a direct reflection of reality, but always an interpretation of it, meaning the studying subject cannot see the object without relating subjectively to it (Rasborg, 2004, p. 349) Methodological approach Following on to the second step of the figure presented in the beginning of this chapter, we now move on to the epistemological position taken in this thesis, as this is closely related to social constructivism. Here, the epistemological position is that the social world only can be understood if we capture the analytical subject s frame of reference. This has several implications for what is assumed knowledge in this thesis and how this is uncovered. Thus, a major part of the empirical research compiled in this thesis is based on the scientific theoretical direction of phenomenology as well as the one of hermeneutics. 12

13 2.2.1 The interpretation of meaning Phenomenology Central to phenomenology is the researcher striving to capture the studied individual s immediate creation of meaning which happens continuously in the individual s social world of experience (Rendtorff, 2004, p. 279). Thus, this approach focuses on the qualitative elements of human life experiences, including the concept of a lifeworld. Phenomenology argues that individuals, both subjects of research and researchers themselves, live in a predefined context of meaning, a lifeworld, which constitutes their experience (p. 281). While phenomenology s methodological foundation is based on the belief that individuals creation of meaning is based on personal, concrete world experiences, phenomenology also argues that individuals all share a universal phenomenological basis one that acknowledges the concept of a common lifeworld. This is closely related to the fact that a phenomenological approach to ontology understands the social as a relationship between subjects who share this common lifeworld (p. 295). This makes phenomenology radically different from the traditional theory of science, positivism, which purpose is to reduce observations and empirical findings to quantitative generalisations. Here, the scientific description is the ideal and the un-mathematising nature of the human s concrete world of experience is disregarded all together. Key to the phenomenological objection to this view is that the human lifeworld cannot be described simply in terms of objectifying categories (p. 288) The role of the researcher - Hermeneutics As the researcher inevitably is embedded in the interpretational processes of the social world, it is imperative to mention the implications of this role. By being part of a social context from which personal experiences and prejudices are created, the researcher approaches research phenomena, theory, empirical collection and findings and subjects of analysis not in a pure objective way, but instead with his or her own preunderstandings of a given situation. Something hermeneutics allows us better insight into. In German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer s hermeneutics, an object cannot be studied independently of the pre-understandings of the researching subject. Instead, an object is always approached as a text 3 with a set of situational prejudices (Gadamer, 2004, p. 255). These prejudices are deeply rooted in people and are a precondition for being able to understand in the first place (Fredslund, 2005, p. 78). Here, we must note, that the term prejudice is often associated with negative connotations, such as an unwavering opinion based on insufficient or even incorrect grounds. However, in this case the term merely refers to a pre-judgment or pre- 3 The term text here refers not only to written text, but should be understood broadly as covering all types of studied phenomena. This includes theory, various empirical findings and interview subjects among others. 13

14 understanding. Through the prefix pre-, Gadamer ascribe the capacity of change, as one s preunderstandings are not necessarily fixed opinions, but rather perspectives which naturally change with the acquisition of new knowledge (Fredslund, 2005, p. 77). Gadamer also ascribes the term situation great importance, as he believes that a person and his or her pre-understandings are embedded in a historical context that becomes the point of reference for our understanding (Fredslund, 2005, p. 79). This means that when interpreting a text, one needs to reflect on the situational and historical context one inevitably is a part of. Essential to the hermeneutical discussion is the question of how one can deal with one s prejudices and not let them control one s encounter with different texts. The answer lies in the ability to be open towards the understandings of the studied texts. This openness implies that one always has to be able to see the text s understanding in relation to one s own and vice versa. Furthermore, a researcher who is aware of the fact that he or she possesses subjective pre-understandings will be prepared to embrace the differentness of that text, even before the encounter with it. The pre-understandings a researcher brings into the meeting with a text should hence not be disregarded at the cost of the understandings the other text, but should rather be highlighted and embraced in a given analysis in order to bring forth the opportunity for true understanding (Gadamer, 2004, p. 256). Being open towards new texts will in relation to this thesis mean an effort to let the chosen theory open my horizons towards the thesis topic and to critically question the gathered empirical evidence, giving the empiricism room for expression Research design As the philosophical vantage point of this thesis, alongside the epistemological position, has been put forward now, we can move on to discussing the practical design of the research conducted in this thesis on its foundation. In commonly accepted theoretical explanations of valid scientific methods, deductive and inductive methods of data collection are opposed in their approach to how to study the world (Helles & Køppe, 2003, p. 289). To briefly summarise their difference, the deductive approach is characterised by the researcher creating a general rule or assumption with the purpose of investigating and testing it. In other words, in a researcher s investigation of a more or less complex phenomenon, he or she will move from an overall line of thought to the testing of simpler single events, looking to verify or falsify his or her hypothesis. The problem here is that realistically, it is not possible for any researcher to investigate a phenomenon with the purpose of reaching a final conclusion, as he or she can never be sure to have uncovered all possible conditions or 14

15 events to the necessary extent. However, as long as the results of a deductive analysis are not falsified, the analysis must be considered the best possible solution to the researched problem (Herslund, 2004, p. 22). The inductive approach differentiates from the deductive by the observation and collection of isolated events and instances, which in turn is gathered and synthesised into a hypothesis. Generally, the inductive method is associated with a prevailing empirical approach, as the method involves a researcher embarking on an investigation of single events with the purpose of creating a common regularity, a hypothesis. The inductive approach also have certain shortfalls, as it is not possible for any researcher to make sure he or she has observed every single case of a given overall phenomenon in order to make an exhaustive description (Herslund, 2004, p. 22). However, what is often seen in scientific research projects is a combination of the two approaches a dialectically chosen method (Herslund, 2004, p. 22). The same is the case for the methodological foundation of this thesis. By dialectically, it is here understood as the cooperation between two opposites (Herslund, 2004, p. 23). The characteristics of this method is that a researcher firstly inductively gets access to a set of data and on the basis of that creates a general hypothesis a hypothesis which is then tested deductively. For the purposes of this thesis this means that initial research has been conducted inductively in order to construct the hypothesis creating the backbone for theoretical and empirical testing. The choice to use a hypothesis has been made because significant empirical evidence is available that cannot be ignored, that is, that the future in communication technology and business communication is digital and therefore should be embraced and adopted by individuals and companies alike. Following the inductively created hypothesis, the hypothesis is deductively researched and tested on the case of FLSmidth, ultimately leading to its verification or falsification Methods and data collection Having established this thesis dialectic approach, we can now turn to the specific means of data collection. On a grand scale, the research conducted in this thesis can be divided into two main parts, namely: 1. The collection of existing research data and material (used inductively and deductively) 2. A self-organised research study (used deductively) 15

16 Existing research data A substantial part of the collection of the existing research material has happened at the very outset of the research process. Being a part of a social context embedded in a digital culture with its technological advancements infiltrating every aspect of my everyday private and career life, I embarked on this project with the understanding that today, communication increasingly happens digitally. In the research conducted to investigating this understanding further, an eclectic approach is applied, where a great array of sources and empirical data of qualitative and quantitative kinds is consulted. These include a number of user surveys, statistics, research articles, reports and blog posts by professionals in the business communications and information technology industries. The purpose has been to gather inspiration for and knowledge about the research topic and grounds for a hypothesis creation. An eclectic approach to empirical data collection is furthermore applied in the investigation of the research questions and in the testing of the hypothesis. Data has been collected with the purpose of supporting the research done in connection with the case study of FLSmidth and mobile communication. Here, qualitative research interviews play a major part, but other types of empirical data has also been collected and applied in analysis. The data used for analytical purposes and for supporting the qualitative research in the thesis includes, but is not limited to: A user survey of 27 Danish and international analysts and their preferences in investor communication services and applied media Report and articles on current trends within investor and digital communication Statistics of the traffic from mobile devices to Statistics of global mobile internet trends Best practice report of IR communication Qualitative research interviews A great part of the empirical data collected for the investigation is collected through qualitative research interviews. Through qualitative research interviews it is possible for me to capture the experiences of the chosen interview subjects about the phenomenon of mobile communication. The interview subjects are the financial analysts covering FLSmidth a detailed explanation for this choice is offered below. The qualitative method applied is adopted from the workings of Steinar Kvale and Svend Brinkmann (2009) and their concept of semi-structured lifeworld interviews and has its philosophical and science theoretical roots in phenomenology as discussed above. With this position comes the acknowledgement that research 16

17 interviewing is a knowledge-producing activity where knowledge is produced in the interaction between interviewer and interviewee. Importantly, and very much in line with the social constructivist position outlined above, interviewing is a social practice embedded in a historical and societal context (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 18). Given this fact, it is clear that overall science theoretical approach is in line with this methodological choice. The use of qualitative research interviews as a method has several implications regarding the interpretative choices of the interviewer, the relationship between interviewer and interview subjects, the selection of interview subjects, the setting of the interviews, design of question guide, analysis of results, applicability of results and not least validity of results. Qualitative research interviewing as a recognised, scientific research method is defined as a specific, professional conversation with a clear power asymmetry between the researcher and the subject, in which the researcher has the monopoly of interpretation (p ). These are important aspects of the applied method, which have been taken into consideration throughout the research process. Interview subjects Key to the success of the qualitative research interviews as a valid research method and the quality of the research findings in relations to the research purpose of this thesis is the selection of research subjects. For the purpose of this thesis, the interview subjects have been selected for several reasons. As this thesis sets out to study FLSmidth s communication situation with a focus on their current investor communication efforts in the context of the possible introduction of a new communication technology, it is imperative that it is the target group of FLSmidth s financial communication that is studied. When the target group of FLSmidth s financial communication is studied qualitatively through research interviews, the chance of capturing the essence of their preferences and experiences with FLSmidth financial communication efforts and use of media is much bigger than if the target group was studied quantitatively through for example questionnaires alone. Investigating the personal experiences and preferences of the target group of FLSmidth s financial communication is furthermore key to covering the potential of introducing a new communication technology to FLSmidth s financial communication efforts. The target group would be the potential users of mobile communication, so covering their media preferences is crucial to the work of answering the research questions of this thesis. It is necessary, however, to demarcate the target group of FLSmidth s financial communication activities, as this group is a very diverse and mixed group of people, both in terms of relations to FLSmidth and in terms of function with respect to the usage of FLSmidth s financial communication services. 17

18 Roughly, FLSmidth s target group of its financial communication can be divided into the following four subgroups (personal communication, Nicolai Mauritzen, Investor Relations Officer, FLSmidth, 2013, 17 Feb.): 1. Shareholders a. Institutional: foreign/domestic/non-registered b. Retail (private): foreign/domestic/non-registered c. FLSmidth (company shares) 2. Potential investors a. Institutional: foreign/domestic b. Retail (private): foreign/domestic 3. Analysts (equity, buy-side, sell-side) 4. Financial reporters/news agencies Given the position each of the four groups represents in relation to FLSmidth, they all differ in their interaction with FLSmidth. In terms of level of information consumption and therefore level of dependency on the communication services that FLSmidth provides, the group of analysts is deemed the most information consuming and dependent of the group. The analysts have a genuine interest in how and through which channels FLSmidth presents its financial results. According to Head of Investor Relations & Corporate Communications in FLSmidth, Pernille Friis Andersen, this makes the subgroup highly relevant to focus on in relations to communication preferences and the introduction of a new communication technology (personal communication, Pernille Friis Andersen, Head of Corporate Communication & Investor Relations, FLSmidth, 2013, Jan.). The group of analysts covering FLSmidth currently amounts to 18 national and international analysts, 11 located abroad, representing a number of national and international banks. Given temporal circumstances, only three had the time to participate in personal interviews. While the goal for the number of interview participants were five, including only three interviews has made it possible to take more time to prepare and analyse each one. Understood here is the conviction that including more interviews does not necessarily imply that a study is more scientific rather on the contrary (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 113). Seven-step approach to research interviewing Guiding the preparation of the qualitative research interviews are seven fundamental steps. These interrelated steps include thematising, designing, interviewing, transcribing, analysing, verifying and reporting. For the interviews conducted in this thesis, it means that issues related to interview purpose, context, analysis and 18

19 verification are considered when thematising and designing the interview. In the following, the methodological choices behind the qualitative research inquiry and the seven steps listed above are presented. Thematising and designing The interviews prepared for this thesis are partly exploratory, partly hypothesis-testing. Practically, this means that the interviews are semi-structured, initiated with an introduction of thesis topic, followed by a number of predefined questions, mostly open ones encouraging the studied subjects to freely enclose their personal experiences and opinions. Now, the introduction serves to present the interview subjects with initial knowledge about the thesis topic, giving them a chance to relate their knowledge to the given situation. The question guide includes six parts, covering the aspects of the topic the thesis is set out to investigate. The question guide hence covers questions about the following areas: the interviewee and his job, IR communication preferences, FLSmidth as an expressive organisation, ownership of mobile devices, usage of mobile devices and the future of financial communication and reporting via mobile communication. As all interview subjects are Danish, the question guide is prepared in Danish (for the full question guide in Danish, see appendix (appx.) 1). However, the question guide is prepared in English as well (see appx. 2), as it is also used as a questionnaire distributed to the international analysts covering FLSmidth. The method and role of the questionnaires are explained in detail later in this chapter. Interviewing and transcribing When preparing the interviews, several aspects regarding setting, introduction, interpersonal relationship and knowledge creation have been taken into consideration (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 128). The three qualitative interviews took place at the offices of each of the interview subjects. Clear to me from the beginning of this research study has been the acknowledgement that firstly the interview subjects are the experts in their field of expertise and secondly that it is their experiences with FLSmidth s financial communication and thoughts on the possible introduction of a new communication technology, which are at the centre of what this investigation is trying to uncover. All of the three interviews have been recorded digitally a circumstance cleared with each of the interview subjects beforehand. During the interviews, I also made room for clarifications of interpretations along the way, making sure I understood the interview subjects correctly. Each of the interviews was furthermore concluded with the opportunity for each of the interview subjects to add or clarify further information. The transcription work done in connection with the three qualitative research interviews has been conducted in a word-for-word fashion. I have transcribed the interviews manually, meaning no computer aiding programs have been applied (find all the transcripts in appx. 3-5). 19

20 Analysing, verifying and reporting What techniques and methods a researcher wishes to use when analysing interview results need to be considered alongside thematising and designing the research study. Relevant to this study, it means that the partly exploratory, partly hypothesis-testing nature of the interview guide results in a bricolage approach to interview analysis. An eclectic form of generating meaning through a number of different tools and techniques has been applied. These include techniques of meaning condensation, to capture the main elements of what is being said in an information-heavy text, as well as techniques of meaning interpretation. The analysis also partly includes a theoretical reading of the results, as central to this thesis is several theoretical assumptions and directions. Key to verifying the results of the analysis is establishing the consistency of its results. Data wise, the focus is consequently on reliable researchers, consistency and trustworthiness of research findings, reliable observations and valid arguments and inferences (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 245). When interpreting results of a research study, as in the present one, validation becomes a matter of choosing between competing and falsifiable interpretations and of examining and providing arguments for the relative credibility of alternative knowledge claims. These basic assumptions about the verification of qualitative research interviews create the background for making sure the results of the three research interviews conducted in the present research study are regarded as both reliable and valid. When taken into consideration the reporting aspect of the three research interview findings is the fact that the work done in connection with the interviews is part of a greater thesis setting. Firstly, reporting is made to accurately reflect the actual research conducted. Secondly, regardless of the potential span of this thesis audience, the reporting of the qualitative research interviews is aimed at reflecting a reliable academic approach presenting valid arguments and interpretations Questionnaires In order to further research the case of FLSmidth, a questionnaire has been sent to those analysts covering FLSmidth who were not able to take part in the interviews. The questionnaires include the same categories of questions as the previously described research interview guide, ultimately constituting an addition to the knowledge acquired through the interviews. Altogether four questionnaires were filled out, out of 15 possible (for answers, see appx. 6-9). Distribution and correspondence occurred via allowing me to contact the participants with follow-up questions when necessary FLSmidth as a case study Central to this thesis is the application of FLSmidth as a case study. Given my awareness of FLSmidth s complex communication situation prior to the creation of the research questions and the hypothesis, the case 20

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