Digital public communication in the pandemic: A corpus-based analysis of Covid-19 local government social media posts

Robbie Love, Erika Darics

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review

Abstract

Communication has played a critical role during the response to and management of the Covid-19 pandemic, and communicators have had a particularly hard task navigating the ‘infodemic’ and persuading different types of audiences to comply with ever-changing regulations. Lots of attention has been paid to national government communications in the context of Covid-19 (e.g. Dada et al. 2021). In comparison, the role of local governments has been relatively under-studied. Local government organisations play a crucial role in recontextualising the national messaging for a local audience and encouraging the public to comply with regulations.

This paper discusses our work with local government organisations in England to examine their communication strategies during the Covid-19 pandemic and develop guidelines for future crisis communications. Our research is based on a corpus of Facebook and Twitter posts about Covid-19 produced by six English local government organisations during the second UK national lockdown in November-December 2020.

Our study analyses the occurrence and function of interactive engagement markers (Hyland, 2005) such as personal pronouns, questions, hashtags and emojis. Building on the premises that (a) audiences are more likely to comply if they are engaged with health messaging, and (b) the public find local government organisations to be more trustworthy than national governments (Coleman et al. 2020), our analysis shows how such linguistic features encourage engagement, demonstrably helping foster relatedness through ambiguity; creating autonomy-supporting communication; and making messages stand out.

Based on our corpus-based discourse analysis, we make recommendations for future crisis communications and argue for more attention to be paid to the many local communicators who play an invaluable role in encouraging the public to comply with national measures in times of crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2022
EventCritical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines Conference 2022 - University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy
Duration: 6 Jul 2022 → …

Conference

ConferenceCritical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleCADAAD2022
Country/TerritoryItaly
CityBergamo
Period6/07/22 → …

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