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Twitter provides insights into leadership styles during #qldfloods

Media release

Research conducted by Curtin University has compared the leadership styles of former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Prime Minister Julia Gillard during the 2011 Queensland floods.

By analysing tweets from social media site Twitter, the report concluded Anna Bligh was perceived to have much stronger characteristics of transformational leadership than the Prime Minister.

Lead researcher, Professor Nigel de Bussy said the results indicated the former State Premier came across as inspirational and charismatic during the crisis.

“We analysed the content of 700 tweets containing the hashtag #qldfloods and mentioning either Anna Bligh or Julia Gillard,” Professor de Bussy said.

“When referring to Anna Bligh, tweeters described being ‘very moved’ with phrases such as ‘class act’, ‘bloody legend’ and ‘inspiring’ appearing frequently.

“Anna Bligh’s ability to display emotion and articulate her State’s proud sense of identity resonated with tweeters.

“In contrast, the Prime Minister’s communication style during the crisis was characterised as ‘robotic and rehearsed’.

“The tweets framed the Prime Minister as a transactional leader, attending to the work of a government without inspiration or charisma.”

The study also highlighted the emerging role of Twitter in setting the media agenda at times of fast-breaking news.

“In times of crisis, we are seeing traditional media look to social media sites such as Twitter to gain a sense of public sentiment,” Professor de Bussy said.

At the peak of the flood in Brisbane, 1,200 tweets an hour were issued using the #qldfloods hashtag.

The paper, Crisis leadership styles – Bligh versus Gillard: a content analysis of Twitter posts on the Queensland floods, was co-written by Ann Paterson, Director, Corporate Communications at Curtin University, and published in the Journal of Public Affairs (2012).

Gracie Daniel, Public Relations Consultant, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 3353, Email: