19 May

Thomas Cook *facepalm*

I might as well jump on the bandwagon with this one – the zeitgeist etc.

I’ve been watching the whole case surrounding the death of two children in Corfu, from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and Thomas Cook’s response to the parents of those children … and I think, in a PR sense, the company has all but committed suicide.

I’ve read that what Thomas Cook have done is follow all legal advice blindly, and neglect the PR / human side of things.
So, they;
– took the hotel (where the children died) to court and won a £3m payout.
– only answered certain questions during the inquest involving the children’s parents.
– refused to apologise (which could be taken as admitting liability), but offered ‘deepest sympathies’.

But at what cost?

They won £3m from the hotel, three years ago, but kept quiet about it. Granted, £1.5m of this went on court and insurance costs, but – to the layperson i.e the consumer – it looks like they profited from the death of the two children.
Yes, the company donated £1.5m to Unicef (so they can now say ‘we didn’t profit’), but only today, after sustained pressure/comments from the parents, over the weekend.

They complied with all legal advice, but held up the inquest into the deaths – while the parents wanted answers – by only choosing to answer certain questions.

Their CEO offered ‘deepest sympathies’ to the parents, for the loss of their children, but ‘didn’t feel that Thomas Cook needed to apologise’.

They have covered themselves on the legal side of things, and not – in the immediate term – lost much money … but how much was it worth to them to just be practical and legally compliant: £4m? £6m? £10m?
I ask because it could well end up costing them that.

Their share price dropped 3% only this morning.

Their target audience (certainly based on recent advertising) is families and/or mums … and they’ve just refused to apologise to a family whose two children died at one of their hotels.
I can’t imagine Thomas Cook are receiving glowing recommendations on MumsNet right now.

In fact, it’s worse than that: Thomas Cook are an official MumsNet partner…. which isn’t going down well.

They’re also taking a battering on Twitter.

Oh, and the next time a family goes to book a holiday and has several brochures in front of them (or several tabs open in their browser), they now have a reason to get rid of the Thomas Cook one (‘oh no, not them – remember how they were with those two kids?’), making their selection process easier.

People don’t forget. How many of you out there still won’t use Nestle products?
You could argue that Nestle are doing just fine now, but how much better could they be doing?
Thomas Cook, by comparison, were nearly declared bankrupt two years ago, so they’re on much shakier ground than Nestle.

The overall point here is, once you’ve lost your reputation, it’s very hard to get it back and have the public trust in you again.
Consumers do not forget these things. We only need a small reason to discount a brand from our selection process. Providing us with that reason is not a good idea.

Maybe some would view it as unfair for Thomas Cook to be forced to apologise. Maybe they’ll think; ‘how could they know that the hotel’s boiler was faulty if it passed previous safety checks?’
These people may even have a point … but, as a brand, sometimes you just have to take one on the chin.
It will now cost Thomas Cook more, through not apologising, than if they’d just listened to some decent PR advice (or even done it out of the goodness of their hearts) rather than digging their heels in.

Remember: once you’ve damaged your reputation, it’s very hard to claw it back.

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