Meet the newest government PSA mascot, Quinn the Quarantine Fox

Quinn is helping the Consumer Product Safety Commission keep people safe at home while they shelter in place.

Image credit: CPSC
Image credit: CPSC

WASHINGTON: What does the fox say? Plenty about staying safe at home. That’s the idea behind Quinn the Quarantine Fox, a PSA mascot created by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

When the coronavirus crisis began, Joseph Galbo, the federal agency’s sole social media specialist, dreamed up Quinn as a “spokesfox” to attract, inform and persuade people to take action based on the commission’s recommendations. 

“[Galbo] pointed out that foxes are cute, clever and resourceful,” said Joe Martyak, director of comms for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “There is also military jargon about sheltering in place and Quinn lives in a fox hole.”

The CPSC’s social media posts about safety at home, with and without Quinn, have been colorful and quirky. Martyak said the agency has taken that tone because it is “one of many agencies” trying to get people’s attention.

“There is so much information floating around about your health and issues about joblessness; it’s a busy climate to be in,” said Martyak. “We said, ‘How are we going to approach this? We need something to be attractive for our messages and we have to hit the right spot.’" 

Quinn isn’t the government agency’s first mascot; it has used unicorns, cats and dogs to communicate with consumers. Martyak said his team pulls inspiration from pop culture, TV and movies and tries to come up with unique names and voices that people will remember.

This time, the agency wanted to make sure it is using the right character and tone as people grapple with the virus.

“We looked at the tone of the conversations out there on social media, what is trending and memes going around,” said Martyak. “In this case, the tone is so somber with the pandemic, so we were trying to find a balance to add a little bit of positivity in there.”

One mission for Quinn: draw people to checklists for self-quarantining at home. 

“More people are at home; they are spending more time at home, and there is more activity at home, so that leads to an increased risk of harm from the hidden hazards that are around the house,” said Martyak. “So we grouped the safety messages by age group: younger children, older children, seniors and everybody.”

Over the last two weeks, the lists have been downloaded from the website 4,000 times, making them the top downloads from the portal in that time period.

Martyak attributed the downloads to Quinn, noting that the mascot has been helpful for engaging consumers and spreading the information by word-of-mouth. 

“He has helped us inform people about these safety tips so they can avoid injuries and going to the emergency room,” said Martyak. “That is helping our healthcare heroes because it is lightening the load they have to deal with.”

Outlets such as The New York Times, NPR and Wired have organically covered Quinn, helping the agency to further spread its message. 

Last week, the CPSC also launched a push called You’re Doing Great for parents.

“Basically, it says when you signed up to be a parent, you didn’t know you’d be dealing with a pandemic, but it is here and you’re doing a good job,” said Martyak. “We are trying to reinforce good behavior and get them to use our checklist for keeping their home and children safe.”

The agency also created a video with safety tips that is set to air on Armed Forces Network, an eight-channel TV network that broadcasts to the military serving overseas, their families stationed there, civilians who work for the Department of Defense, U.S. embassies and the International Space Station.

The effort has been developed in house, though the government agency works with Widmeyer Communications, a Finn Partners Company. 

Martyak said he doesn’t foresee Quinn being retired when the pandemic ends.

“His name may be changed in the future,” said Martyak. “When there is another role for him to play, he will be there.” 

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