The public relations program that changed perceptions of airport testing
Golin won the “Corporate PR” and “Reputation Management and Crisis PR” awards at the Drum Awards for PR 2021 with his campaign for Collison. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveals the secrets of this successful project …
As the travel industry shut down due to a pandemic, Collinson had a solution: airport testing. The problem? Few people knew Collinson, and even fewer understood the tests. We launched a global public relations program to gain industry support for testing, raise public awareness, and change government perceptions of its effectiveness.
We worked with the Global CMO to create a narrative that reflects the current world situation. The idea was simple and obvious: people wanted to travel but couldn’t due to blockages or, if allowed, were reluctant to do so when it could mean quarantine for ten days on landing. .
The brand’s platform was clear: “Make the world travel safe again”.
We implemented a two-pronged approach to position Collinson at the forefront of safe travel: a public relations program that would generate broad national media coverage and travel for testing as a safer alternative. long quarantines, and a PA program to run in tandem; lobby the UK government, showing public demand and scientific support for the tests. And it was critical. Because all we have achieved would mean nothing without the necessary buy-in from the government. We needed those who tested negative on departure to be allowed to fly and those who tested negative on arrival be added to the UK government’s list of quarantine exemptions.
While this was an international campaign, we were starting to create a moment in the UK, where we could target the international press, while government membership would help tell the story internationally. .
Working with air cargo company Swissport, Collinson announced the world’s first airport testing facilities – which, although scientifically sound, could not function due to government resistance.
We used the buzz generated by news from our facilities and wrote to Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps asking him to work together on airport testing rather than quarantine. We leaked the letter to the national and professional press, which began to view our science as an alternative to long quarantines. We provided comprehensive national coverage, including the Times front page, BBC News Online and broadcast interviews on BBC Radio 4, BBC channels and CNBC Asia. We kept the momentum going with thought leadership and industry-wide appeals, all bolstering Collinson’s expertise in the field.
Prolific media coverage led Heathrow to board AND five other UK airports and airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, to sign contracts to work with Collinson. With each new partnership with an airline or airport, we made a new media announcement, each drawing attention to airport testing. Then we went international taking the test story to Asia and gaining international media success that led Collinson to sign Singapore Airlines, Air Canada and Scoot.
To position Collinson as a leader in “Making the World Travel Safe”, we published articles in international media; using statistics, insights and virtual test demonstrations to inform safe travel procedures, ensuring Collinson’s experts are at the heart of the conversation.
The company’s reputation scores have skyrocketed from the previous four months. We saw a 138% increase in awareness; 97% increase in consideration; 74% increase in attitude; and 176% in advocacy – all scores unthinkable for Collinson before. We were also seated at the table – Collinson was invited to the government testing working group and led active discussions in the industry through the industry body Airlines UK.
We have helped Collinson generate a whole new source of revenue with contracts for test facilities generating estimated revenues of over $ 10 million. We also saw a 52% increase in purchase intentions. The contracts included airports (London Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, City, Manchester, East Midlands, Dallas Fort Worth Airport, JFK, Newark); sites (The O2, Gatwick Parking and Hotels); and airlines (Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, American Airlines, JAL, Delta, Qantas, China Airlines, EasyJet).
Collinson has gone from being a stranger in mainstream media to being the go-to company for travel test commentary and international speed dial journalists. The campaign resulted in 3,776 media placements (+ 60% vs. 8 previous months); 29.9 billion media impressions (+ 102% vs. 8 previous months); and 98.5% positive coverage (0.6% negative, 22.4% neutral). Global international media coverage in major national media included the BBC, The Financial Times, Sky News, CNBC Asia, The Telegraph, The Independent, SCMP, Straits Times, The Times (homepage), BBC Radio 4.
Collinson is now recognized as a leader in the travel recovery space. Co-CEO David Evans has forged a strong relationship with UK Travel Secretary Grant Shapps, and even spoke on a panel alongside Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways in April. To have Collinson at the forefront in such a panel would have been unthinkable at the start of the campaign.
This project was the winner of the Drum Awards for PR 2021. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for applications, click here.