Localising the national message: A corpus-based study of local government social media posts about Covid-19

Robbie Love, Erika Darics, Rudi Palmieri

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review


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 periods of national lockdown in 2020 and 2021.
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 - 1 Sep 2022
EventBritish Association for Applied Linguistics Conference 2022 - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sep 2022 → …


ConferenceBritish Association for Applied Linguistics Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleBAAL 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period1/09/22 → …


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