Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate what and how intellectual capital information (ICI) conveyed through analyst reports varies by the type of stock recommendation. It draws on the theory of impression management. Design/methodology/approach: Content analysis is used to investigate ICI in the full text of sell-side analysts' initiating coverage reports. It categorises ICI by type and three qualitative characteristics: evidence; time orientation; and news-tenor. It explores how the extent, types and qualitative characteristics of ICI found in analyst reports vary by the type of stock recommendation accompanying the analyst report. Findings: Given the conflicting interests facing analysts and relative amenability of ICI, it was found that analysts use ICI to manage perceptions. In particular, analysts attempt to use ICI in their reports to subdue the pessimism associated with an unfavourable recommendation, increase credibility of favourable recommendations and distinguish sell from hold recommendations. Practical implications: The paper contributes to the literature on impression management by extending its application to the study of sell-side analysts' decision processes and it alerts future researchers to the wider role played by ICI beyond its use in generation of forecasts and valuations. The paper's findings have implications for consumers of analyst reports, as the level of negativity/positivity of forecasts and recommendations may be altered as a result of the semantics associated with ICI. Originality/value: This paper explores analysts' use of ICI conditional on the type of stock recommendation accompanying the report. Findings are explained using the theory of impression management.