Impression management in annual report narratives: the case of the UK private finance initiative

Victoria C. Edgar, Matthias Beck, Niamh M. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
2083 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – The UK private finance initiative (PFI) public policy is heavily criticised. PFI contracts are highly profitable leading to incentives for PFI private-sector companies to support PFI public policy. This contested nature of PFIs requires legitimation by PFI private-sector companies, by means of impression management,in terms of the attention to and framing of PFI in PFI private-sector company annual reports. The paper aims to discuss this issue.Design/methodology/approach – PFI-related annual report narratives of three UK PFI private-sector companies, over seven years and across two periods of significant change in the development of the PFI public policy, are analysed using manual content analysis.Findings – Results suggest that PFI private-sector companies use impression management to legitimise during periods of uncertainty for PFI public policy, to alleviate concerns, to provide credibility for the policy and to legitimise the private sector’s own involvement in PFI. Research limitations/implications – While based on a sizeable database, the research is limited to the study of three PFI private-sector companies.Originality/value – The portrayal of public policy in annual report narratives has not been subject to prior research. The research demonstrates how managers of PFI private-sector companies present PFI narratives in support of public policy direction that, in turn, benefits PFI private-sector companies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1566-1592
Number of pages27
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2018


  • Annual report narratives
  • Impression management
  • Legitimacy theory
  • Private finance initiative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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