Weekly Web Watch: Holiday firm web update timed badly

Thomas Cook reacted swiftly to the fatal coach accident in South Africa, in which 26 Britons died last week.

Thomas Cook reacted swiftly to the fatal coach accident in South

Africa, in which 26 Britons died last week.



In a classic crisis management case study, managing director Simon

Laxton was immediately available, expressing his sympathy for the

families of the victims.



All the newspaper reports named Thomas Cook as the tour operator, but

presented it in a positive light by stressing that it was being

proactive and taking control by flying out counsellors and legal

advisers, and starting its own investigation.



Thomas Cook managed the national media extremely well, getting over its

emotional and practical messages fast and effectively. But it looks as

if the company has missed a trick by ignoring the potential of its web

site to spread the messages further.



The site is far from up-to-date - the latest press release is from July

1997, and there is no mention of the accident. The web site is mainly

concerned with searches for holiday options, although there are pages on

the background to the company, and this is where the ancient press

releases are hidden. The most recent event mentioned on the site in the

’About Us’ section is John Donaldson becoming CEO in January 1999.



It transpires that Thomas Cook has been a victim of bad timing. The web

site looks stagnant because it is: the company is in the process of

rebuilding its web presence worldwide to streamline its 14 sites. But

the company should have either deleted the site or continued to update

it.



The new-look site will not be up for another few weeks. The new.co.uk

site is already operational, but it is a purely transactional site for

holiday packages and currency.



Sophie Roe from Thomas Cook’s communications department said: ’It’s

regrettable in the light of the tragedy that our web site isn’t

operational.



In the future we will have important and corporate press statements on

our worldwide site and if this type of incident had happened a few weeks

down the line, there would have been information available on the site.

We have been very accessible, but it would have been better if the site

was up and running.’



The company recognises that top notch on-line communications are

becoming more important - it’s even recruiting an electronic

communications executive to co-ordinate major press releases from its

businesses around the world and make sure the site is bang up-to-date.

It’s just a shame - and a blot on the company’s otherwise impeccable

handling of the crisis - that the time it chose to invest in on-line PR

coincided with one of the few times it really needed to use the

function.



Company: Thomas Cook

Issue: South African coach crash, killing 27 people

Address: www.thomascook.com



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