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
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
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
Company: Thomas Cook
Issue: South African coach crash, killing 27 people