Only timeline will tell: temporal framing of competitive announcements and rivals' responses

06 Jun 2018

Research has focused predominantly on the influence of the language firms use in their announcements on the reactions of constituents such as shareholders and the media. We extend this research by examining a new form of linguistic construction––temporal framing—in the context of competitive interactions. Building on inter-temporal choice theory, we theorized and tested how a focal firm’s temporal framing of its competitive action announcements affects rivals’ response speed. We examined three dimensions of temporal framing: temporal vagueness (lack of clarity and completeness regarding timelines); temporal distance (length of the action timeline: proximal versus distal); and frequency (repetition of vagueness and distance cues). Based on analysis of 2,130 competitive action press releases of 28 duopoly firms from 14 industries, we found that the temporal framing dimensions, both individually and interactively, were related to the response speed of rivals. Specifically, temporally vague and distally framed timelines in action announcements delayed rivals’ response speed, and increased frequency of vagueness and distance cues strengthened these effects. This study explicates the linguistic underpinnings of competitive interactions and highlights the importance of temporal framing in the competitive context.