Purpose – Previous research shows that symmetrical dialogue between companies and their investors through e-mail does not match the quality of the asymmetrically provided information on investor relations websites. This paper seeks to further examine the quality of symmetrical dialogue and especially whether sender identity affects the corporate e-mail handling performance. Design/methodology/approach – A “mystery sender” approach is used to test whether companies answer similar e-mails from two different stakeholder groups: investors and journalists. The corporate replies were evaluated for responsiveness, timeliness and relevance. Findings – Overall responsiveness from the companies in the sample is low, and e-mails from journalists turn out to get significantly fewer and less relevant replies than e-mails from investors. Thus, the idea of sender identity affecting the way companies respond to e-mail inquiries is empirically supported. Practical implications – Stakeholders of listed companies should not rely too much on symmetrical dialogue by e-mail given the high probability of non-response, especially for journalists. Companies offering the possibility of symmetrical communication need to critically evaluate their information system to achieve better results in handling e-mail from stakeholders and to make sure that certain stakeholder groups are not discriminated. Originality/value – This is one of the first papers that present evidence on how corporate investor relation departments respond to e-mails from different types of stakeholder groups. The paper contributes to a better understanding of the variables that drive the quality of symmetrical dialogue between companies and stakeholders groups.
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