Engaging the public: English local government organisations’ social media communications during the COVID-19 pandemic

Robbie Love*, Erika Darics, Rudi Palmieri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Communication has played a critical role during the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and communicators have had a particularly difficult task in persuading different types of audience to comply with ever-changing regulations. 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 investigates local government organisations’ (henceforth LGOs) engagement strategies in COVID-related posts on social media. In collaboration with LGOs in England, we examined their communication strategies on Twitter and Facebook during the second UK national lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in November-December 2020. Using methods from corpus-assisted discourse studies, the paper analyses the occurrence and functions of selected interactive engagement markers, in this case personal pronouns, questions and hashtags. We find that such linguistic features function to encourage engagement by (a) helping to foster relatedness through ambiguity; (b) creating autonomy-supporting communication; and (c) making messages ‘stand out’.
Based on our corpus analysis, we discuss the initial response of the participating councils to our findings and outline future directions including the integration of multimodal approaches to studying the role of localised social media in national crisis management. We 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
Article number100060
Pages (from-to)100060
JournalApplied Corpus Linguistics
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made.


  • Public health
  • Local government
  • Social media
  • Discourse analysis
  • Corpus linguistics


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