European leaders unmasked: Covid-19 communication strategy through Twitter



Palabras clave:

Crisis communication, Covid-19, Twitter, Audiovisual communication, Authoritative leadership, Pandemics, Political communication


The coronavirus disease Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic is exacting a huge toll on individuals, families, communities, and societies across the world. The study of public communication is a key aspect for slowing the spread of the virus and therefore reducing the death rate. This article analyses political leaders´ crisis communication during the Covid-19 pandemic of the most affected European countries, Boris Johnson (United Kingdom), Emmanuel Macron (France), Pedro Sánchez (Spain) and Giuseppe Conte (Italy), in addition to Tedros Adhanom as a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ursula Von der Leyen President of the European Union (EU). The study focuses on the visual information (images and videos) published in their Twitter profiles, with the aim of highlighting the strategies of recommendations by health authorities during the first 40 days of the pandemic. After analysis of the visual content of 634 tweets, the results show significant differences amongst the preventative measures recommended (social distancing, use of masks, hand washing, etc.) and the public image projected by the leaders in their Twitter profiles.


Los datos de descargas todavía no están disponibles.

Biografía del autor/a

Esteban Galán-Cubillo, Universitat Politècnica de València

Profesor Contratado Doctor

Departamento de comunicación Audiovisual, Documentación e historia del Arte.

Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (UPV)


Agre, Philip E. (2002). "Real-time politics: The internet and the political process". The information society, v. 18, n. 5, pp. 311-331.

Alhabash, Saleem; McAlister, Anna R. (2014). "Redefining virality in less broad strokes: Predicting viral behavioral intentions from motivations and uses of Facebook and Twitter". New media & society, v. 17, n. 8, pp. 1317-1339.

Alonso-Muñoz, Laura; Casero-Ripollés, Andreu (2020). "Populism against Europe in social media: the Eurosceptic discourse on Twitter in Spain, Italy, France and United Kingdom during the campaign of the 2019 European Parliament Election". Frontiers in communication, v. 5, n. 54.

Aramaki, Eiji; Maskawa, Sachiko; Morita, Mizuki (2011). "Twitter catches the flu: detecting influenza epidemics using Twitter". In: Proceedings of the 2011 Conference on empirical methods in natural language processing, pp. 1568-1576. Association for Computational Linguistics.

Arora, Anuja; Bansal, Shivam; Kandpal, Chandrashekhar; Aswani, Reema; Dwivedi, Yogesh (2019). "Measuring social media influencer index-insights from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram". Journal of retailing and consumer services, v. 49, pp. 86-101.

Avolio, Bruce J.; Gardner, William (2005). "Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership". The leadership quarterly, v. 16, n.3, pp. 315-338.

Bailenson, Jeremy N.; Iyengar, Shanto; Yee, Nick; Collins, Nathan A. (2008). "Facial similarity between voters and candidates causes influence". Public opinion quarterly, v. 72, n. 5, pp. 935-961.

Baker, Nevra (2020). "Authentic leadership, leader optimism, and follower affective commitment: An experimental study". In: Dogru, í‡aglar. Leadership styles, innovation, and social entrepreneurship in the era of digitalization. IGI Global, pp. 329-344. ISBN: 978 1 799811084

Bakshy, Eytan; Hofman, Jake M.; Mason, Winter A.; Watts, Duncan J. (2011). "Everyone´s an influencer: quantifying influence on Twitter". In: Proceedings of the fourth ACM International conference on Web search and data mining, pp. 65-74.

Barnhurst, Kevin G.; Quinn, Kelly (2012). "Political visions: Visual studies in political communication". In: Semetko, Holli A.; Scammell, Margaret (eds.). The Sage handbook of political communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 276-291.

Baron, Jonathan; Hershey, John C.; Kunreuther, Howard (2000). "Determinants of priority for risk reduction: The role of worry". Risk analysis, v. 20, n. 4, pp. 413-428.

Bernardo, Theresa-Marie; Rajic, Andrijana; Young, Ian; Robiadek, Katie; Pham, Mai T.; Funk, Julie A. (2013). "Scoping review on search queries and social media for disease surveillance: a chronology of innovation". Journal of medical internet research, v. 15, n. 7, e147.

Birdsell, David S.; Groarke, Leo (2007). "Outlines of a theory of visual argument". Argumentation and advocacy, v. 43, pp. 103-113.

Bortree, Denise-Sevick; Seltzer, Trent (2009). "Dialogic strategies and outcomes: An analysis of environmental advocacy groups´ Facebook profiles". Public relations review, v. 35, n. 3, pp. 317-319.

Brennan, Bryna; Gutiérrez, Vilma (2011). Guí­a para elaborar la estrategia de comunicación de riesgo. De la teorí­a a la acción. Washington, DC: Organización Panamericana de la Salud.

Cairns, Georgina; De-Andrade, Marisa; MacDonald, Laura (2013). "Reputation, relationships, risk communication, and the role of trust in the prevention and control of communicable disease: A review". Journal of health communication, v. 18, n. 12, pp. 1550-1565.

Casero-Ripollés, Andreu; Sintes-Olivella, Marí§al; Franch, Pere (2017). "The populist political communication style in action: Podemos´s issues and functions on Twitter during the 2016 Spanish general election". American behavioral scientist, v. 61, n. 9, pp. 986-1001.

Chan, Margaret (2014). "WHO Director-General´s speech to the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific". World Health Organization, 13 October.

Chess, Caron; Salomone, Kandice L.; Hance, Billie-Jo; Saville, Alex (1995). "Results of a national symposium on risk communication: Next steps for government agencies". Risk analysis, v. 15, n. 2, pp. 115-125.

Chew, Cynthia; Eysenbach, Gunther (2010). "Pandemics in the Age of Twitter: Content analysis of tweets during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak". PLoS one, v. 5, n. 12, e14118.

Coombs, W. Timothy (2012). Ongoing crisis communication. Los Angeles: Sage. ISBN: 978 1 452261362

Coombs, W. Timothy; Holladay, Sherry J. (2002). "Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets: Initial tests of the situational crisis communication theory". Management communication quarterly, v. 16, n. 2, pp. 165-186.

Covello, Vicent (2003). "Best practices in public health risk and crisis communication". Journal of health communication, v. 8, supl. 1, pp. 5-8.

Covello, Vicent T.; Peters, Richard G.; Wojtecki, Joseph G.; Hyde, Richard C. (2001). "Risk communication, the West Nile virus epidemic, and bioterrorism: Responding to the communication challenges posed by the intentional or unintentional release of a pathogen in an urban setting". Journal of urban health, v. 78, n. 2, pp. 382-391.

Dahlgren, Peter (2005). "The internet, public spheres, and political communication: dispersion and deliberation". Political communication, v. 22, n. 2, pp. 147-162.

Douglas, Ceasar; Ferris, Gerald; Perrewe, Pamela L. (2005). "Leader political skill and authentic leadership". Authentic leadership: origins, development, and effects, v. 3, pp. 139-154. ISBN: 0762312378

Dubois, Elizabeth; Dutton, William H. (2012). "The fifth estate in internet governance: collective accountability of a Canadian policy initiative". Revue francaise d´etudes americaines, v. 134, n. 4, pp. 81-97.

Dubois, Elizabeth; Gaffney, Devin (2014). "The multiple facets of influence: identifying political influentials and opinion leaders on Twitter". American behavioral scientist, v. 58, n. 10, pp. 1260-1277.

Ducharme, Jamie (2020). "News coverage of coronavirus in 2020 is very different than it was for Ebola in 2018". Time, 7 February.

Edwards, Korie L.; Kim, Rebecca (2019). "Estranged pioneers: The case of African American and Asian American multiracial church pastors". Sociology of religion, v. 80, n. 4, pp. 456-477.

Enli, Gunn (2017). "Twitter as arena for the authentic outsider: Exploring the social media campaigns of Trump and Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election". European journal of communication, v. 32, n. 1, pp. 50-61.

Filimonov, Kirill; Russmann, Uta; Svensson, Jakob (2016). "Picturing the party: Instagram and party campaigning in the 2014 Swedish elections". Social media + society, v. 2, n. 3.

Fischhoff, Baruch (1989). "Helping the public make health risk decisions". In: Covello, Vincent T.; McCallum, David B.; Pavlova, Maria T. (eds.). Effective risk communication, pp. 111-116. Boston, MA: Springer. ISBN: 978 1 4613 1569 8

Gardner, William L.; Cogliser, Claudia C.; Davis, Kelly M.; Dickens, Matthew P. (2011). "Authentic leadership: a review of the literature and research agenda". The leadership quarterly, v. 22, n. 6, pp. 1120-1145.

Glik, Deborah C. (2007). "Risk communication for public health emergencies". Annual review of public health, v. 28, pp. 33-54.

Guidry, Jeanine P. D.; Jin, Yan; Orr, Caroline A.; Messner, Marcus; Meganck, Shana (2017). "Ebola on Instagram and Twitter: How health organizations address the health crisis in their social media engagement". Public relations review, v. 43, n. 3, pp. 477-486.

Hagen, Loni; Keller, Thomas; Neely, Stephen; DePaula, Nic; Robert-Cooperman, Claudia (2017). "Crisis communications in the age of social media: a network analysis of Zika-related tweets". Social science computer review, v. 36, n. 5, pp. 523-541.

Hanna, Richard; Rohm, Andrew; Crittenden, Victoria L. (2011). "We´re all connected: the power of the social media ecosystem". Business horizons, v. 54, n. 3, pp. 265-273.

Hindman, Matthew (2009). The myth of digital democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN: 978 0 691137612

Hornmoen, Harald; Backholm, Klas; Frey, Elsebeth; Ottosen, Rune; Reimerth, Gudrun; Steensen, Steen (2018). "Key communicators perspectives on the use of social media in risk and crises". In: Andersen, Robin; De Silva, Purnaka L. (eds.). The Routledge companion to media and humanitarian action. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 439-449. ISBN: 978 0 367877965

Houts, Peter S.; Doak, Cecilia C.; Doak, Leonard G.; Loscalzo, Matthew J. (2006). "The role of pictures in improving health communication: a review of research on attention, comprehension, recall, and adherence". Patient education and counseling, v. 61, n. 2, pp. 173-190.

Hughes, Amanda L.; Palen, Leysia (2012). "The evolving role of the public information officer: An examination of social media in emergency management". Journal of homeland security and emergency management, v. 9, n. 1.

Kata, Anna (2010). "A postmodern Pandora´s box: anti-vaccination misinformation on the internet". Vaccine, v. 28, n. 7, pp. 1709-1716.

Katz, Elihu; Lazarsfeld, Paul F. (1955). Personal influence: the part played by people in the flow of mass communications. A report of the Bureau of Applied Social Research. Columbia University. Free Press. ISBN: 1412805074

Lalancette, Mireille; Raynauld, Vincent (2019). "The power of political image: Justin Trudeau, Instagram, and celebrity politics". American behavioral scientist, v. 63, n. 7, pp. 888-924.

Lamb, Alex; Paul, Michael J.; Dredze, Mark (2013). "Separating fact from fear: tracking flu Infections on Twitter". In: Proceedings of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics. Human language technologies, pp. 789-795.

Latonero, Mark; Shklovski, Irinia (2011). "Emergency management, Twitter, and social media evangelism". International journal of information systems for crisis response and management, v. 3, n. 4.

Lego-Muñoz, Caroline; Towner, Terri L. (2017). "The image is the message: Instagram marketing and the 2016 presidential primary season". Journal of political marketing, v. 16, n. 3-4, pp. 290-318.

Lipsitch, Marc; Swerdlow, David; Finelli, Lyn (2020). "Defining the epidemiology of Covid-19 - studies needed". New England journal of medicine, n. 382, pp. 1194-1196.

Liu, Brooke F.; Kim, Sora (2011). "How organizations framed the 2009 H1N1 pandemic via social media and traditional media: Implications for U.S. health communicators". Public relations review, v. 37, n. 3, pp. 233-244.

Lovejoy, Kristen; Waters, Richard D.; Saxton, Gregory D. (2012). "Engaging stakeholders through Twitter: How nonprofit organizations are getting more out of 140 characters or less". Public relations review, v. 38, n. 2, pp. 313-318.

Lí¼fkens, Matthias (2018). Twiplomacy Study 2018, July 10.

Luthans, Fred; Avolio, Bruce J. (2003). "Authentic leadership development". In: Cameron, Kim S.; Dutton, Jane E.; Quinn, Robert E. (eds.). Positive organizational scholarship. Foundations of a new discipline. McGraw-Hill Education, pp. 241-258. ISBN: 978 1 576752326

Masip, Pere; Aran-Ramspott, Sue; Ruiz-Caballero, Carlos; Suau, Jaume; Almenar, Ester; Puertas-Graell, David (2020). "Consumo informativo y cobertura mediática durante el confinamiento por el Covid-19: sobreinformación, sesgo ideológico y sensacionalismo". Profesional de la información, v. 29, n. 3.

McAllister-Spooner, Sheila M. (2009). "Fulfilling the dialogic promise: a ten-year reflective survey on dialogic internet principles". Public relations review, v. 35, n. 3, pp. 320-322.

McInnes, Colin-John; Hornmoen, Harald (2018). ""˜Add Twitter and Stir´: The use of Twitter by public authorities in Norway and UK during the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak". Observatorio (OBS*), v. 12, n. 2, pp. 23-46.

Nordahl, Kristina (2009). Authentic authority: The heart of effective teaching. Laerarutbildningen, Sweden: Malmoe Hoegskola.

Palenchar, Michael J.; Heath, Robert L. (2007). "Strategic risk communication: adding value to society". Public relations review, v. 33, n. 2, pp. 120-129.

Paramova, Petia (2014). Cultural variations of the personalities, leadership styles and prototypes of political leaders. A comparison of politicians, organisational leaders and voters. Doctoral dissertation. University of London.

Parks, Will; Lloyd, Linda (2004). Planificación de la movilización y comunicación social para la prevención y el control del dengue: guí­a paso a paso. Ginebra: OrganizacioÌn Mundial de la Salud. ISBN: 9241591072

Partner, Bi-India (2020). "Twitter has some tips for journalists and media organisations to communicate effectively amid crisis". Advertising & media insider, 22 Apr.

Paul, Michael; Dredze, Mark (2011). "You are what you tweet: analyzing Twitter for public health". In: Proceedings of the 5th Intl AAAI Conference on weblogs and social media (Icwsm), pp. 265-272.

Pittinsky, Todd L.; Tyson, Christopher J. (2005). "Leader authenticity markers: findings from a study of African American political leaders". In: Gardner, William L.; Avolio, Bruce J.; Walumbwa, Fred O. (eds.). Authentic leadership theory and practice: Origins, effects and development, v. 3, pp. 155-182.

Powell, Thomas E.; Boomgaarden, Hajo G.; De-Swert, Knut; De-Vreese, Claes H. (2015). "A clearer picture: The contribution of visuals and text to framing effects". Journal of communication, v. 65, n. 6, pp. 997-1017.

Renn, Ortwin; Levine, Debra (1991). "Credibility and trust in risk communication". In: Kasperson, Roger E.; Stallen, Pieter-Jan M. (eds.). Communicating risks to the public. The Hague: Klewer, pp. 175-217. ISBN: 978 94 010 7372 1

Reynolds, Barbara J. (2009). "Building trust through social media. CDC´s experience during the H1N1 influenza response". Marketing health services, v. 30, n. 2, pp. 18-21.

Rogers, Everett (2010). Diffusion of innovations, 4th ed. New York, NY: Free Press. ISBN: 0029266718

Schill, Dan (2012). "The visual image and the political image: a review of visual communication research in the field of political communication". Review of communication, v. 12, n. 2, pp. 118-142.

Schultz, Friederike; Utz, Sonja; Gí¶ritz, Anja (2011). "Is the medium the message? Perceptions of and reactions to crisis communication via Twitter, blogs and traditional media". Public relations review, v. 37, pp. 20-27.

Simon, Tomer; Goldberg, Avishay; Aharonson-Daniel, Limor; Leykin, Dmitry; Adini, Bruria (2014). "Twitter in the cross fire - the use of social media in the Westgate mall terror attack in Kenya". PLoS one, v. 9.

Sommerfeldt, Erich J.; Kent, Michael L.; Taylor, Maureen (2012). "Activist practitioner perspectives of website public relations: Why aren´t activist websites fulfilling the dialogic promise?". Public relations review, v. 38, n. 2, pp. 303-312.

Stander, Frederick W.; De-Beer, Leon T.; Stander, Marius W. (2015). "Authentic leadership as a source of optimism, trust in the organisation and work engagement in the public health care sector". SA Journal of human resource management, v. 13, n. 1.

Stevenson, Chris (2018). "What has Trump tweeted today? The latest Twitter posts from the US President and what they really mean". The independent, 14 February.

Thelwall, Mike; Thelwall, Saheeda (2020). "Covid-19 tweeting in English: Gender differences". El profesional de la información, v. 29, n. 3, e290301.

Tirkkonen, Pí¤ivi; Luoma-aho, Vilma (2011). "Online authority communication during an epidemic: a Finnish example". Public relations review, v. 37, n. 2, pp. 172-174.

Tucker, William (2012). Relationship between authentic leadership traits and developmental education methods of air force field grade officers. Walden University. UMI Number: 3518517

Utz, Sonja; Schultz, Friederike; Glocka, Sandra (2012). "Crisis communication online: how medium, crisis type and emotions affected public reactions in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster". Public relations review, v. 39, n. 1, pp. 40-46.

Vázquez-Sande, Pablo; Garcí­a-Abad, Lito; Pineda-Martí­nez, Paula (2019). "Comunicación interna y crisis reputacional. El caso de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos". Revista latina de comunicación social, n. 74, pp. 1748-1760.

Veil, Shari R.; Buehner, Tara; Palenchar, Michael J. (2011). "A work-in-progress literature review: incorporating social media in risk and crisis communication". Journal of contingencies and crisis management, v. 19, pp. 110-122.

Walumbwa, Fred O.; Wang, Peng; Wang, Hui; Schaubroeck, John; Avolio, Bruce J. (2010). "Psychological processes linking authentic leadership to follower behaviors". The leadership quarterly, v. 21, pp. 901-914. [This article has been retracted]

Watts, Duncan J.; Dodds, Peter S. (2007). "Influentials, networks, and public opinion formation". Journal of consumer research, v. 34, n. 4, pp. 441-458.

Wise, Kurt (2001). "Opportunities for public relations research in public health". Public relations review, v. 27, n. 4, pp. 475-487.




Cómo citar

Drylie-Carey, L., Sánchez-Castillo, S., & Galán-Cubillo, E. (2020). European leaders unmasked: Covid-19 communication strategy through Twitter. Profesional De La información Information Professional, 29(5).



Artí­culos de investigación Covid-19 / Covid-19 research articles