CovidComms Awards

The PC Agency works to Quash Quarantine

Paul Charles, chief executive, The PC Agency
Winner: Best leadership communications
CovidComms Awards 2020

Paul Charles is the founder and chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency. He was asked to lead the travel industry’s response to the pandemic and been instrumental in getting the government to change its proposed policies.

His first campaign, Quash Quarantine, was a lobbying campaign designed to put pressure on the government to revise its travel guidelines which was prompted by the revelation in The Times that there were plans to bring in quarantine measures for anyone entering the UK from 8 June 2020.

It kicked off with a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel in May, signed by 77 senior travel and hospitality bosses, which demanded that plans for a mandatory 14-day quarantine for overseas visitors were scrapped as the travel industry was ‘severely challenged’.

It argued that, to be successful, a quarantine plan should have been introduced earlier – and indeed such a measure had been called for by the industry – but would instead now deter travellers and likely prompt reciprocal arrangements.

The letter, which did not receive a reply, was covered across print, broadcast and online media. The coverage gave the campaign additional momentum, and a further 500 firms and individuals, including Sir Rocco Forte and Club Med, joined up to Quash Quarantine.

To garner more attention, The PC Agency commissioned an opinion poll which revealed that 85 per cent of British adults lacked confidence in the government’s ability to implement the quarantine measures. More than half – 59 per cent – supported the idea of travel corridors, which would allow travel on certain routes without the need to self-isolate on return to the UK.

Charles wrote a second letter in June, endorsed by more than 400 countries, to the Home Secretary in which he shared the results of the poll, which had been conducted by AudienceNet.

The campaign also started to win political support. Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, tweeted about his support for Quash Quarantine while a Cabinet minister, so enraged by comments made by Charles to a newspaper claiming that ministers ‘were losing their credibility in the travel industry’ rang to discuss the situation and privately confirm plans for travel corridors, which would commence 29 June.

This prompted Charles and The PC Agency to start publishing a daily country-by-country outbreak league table. The tool was designed to help the media and consumers to better understand the guidelines and provide some form of context. It acted as a traffic lights system, showing current travel restrictions and local Covid-19 infection rates.

Such was the support for the league table that Charles increased his following on Twitter by more than 2,000 per cent. He currently has more than 22,000 followers while The PC Agency has in excess of 7,600.

In September 2020, The PC Agency and AudienceNet collaborated on a second poll, in association with The Daily Telegraph. It found that 62 per cent of the population would prefer a test on arrivals to the UK rather than a 14-day quarantine. The results were covered in print and online.

Between May 2020 and October, Charles and The PC Agency achieved 25 front pages in the UK and more than 450 pieces of international broadcast, print and online coverage.