This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Dr. Josef Scheuerlein and Dr. Helena Chladkova analyzed letters from CEOs of major U.S. companies to shareholders during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

A content analysis of 594 letters from 104 CEOs to shareholders between 2006 and 2011 was conducted.

Key findings include:

  • The use of first-person plural pronouns (such as “we”) strongly increased during the crisis.
  • Researchers suggest that this indicates an effort to promote group solidarity and cohesiveness.
  • Language indicating a powerful CEO stayed constant throughout the crisis.
  • There was no significant change in first-person singular pronouns (such as “I”) throughout the crisis.
  • The base rate of first-person singular pronouns was low.
  • There was a decrease in risk words throughout the crisis, indicating that CEOs became more cautious about taking risks during the crisis.
  • CEOs continued to use more first-person plural pronouns after the crisis and discussion of risk continued to decrease, illustrating that the crisis had an impact on the communication styles and language use of leaders.

Read more to see how CEO language changed or remained the same throughout the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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