Profile: Griffiths casts her net wider - Bronwen Griffiths, head of PR, Thomas Cook

The worst holiday that Bronwen Griffiths ever had was an all-inclusive package to the Dominican Republic. But that didn't stop the 32-year-old Bristolian accepting the top PR job at Thomas Cook UK - whose founder invented the package holiday more than 160 years ago.

The ebullient Griffiths, who firmly believes 'the travel industry isn't just about selling a two-week package', plans to emphasise the diversity of Thomas Cook's offering when she leaves P&O Cruises for her new role in September. The decision not to rely too heavily on the firm's package holiday reputation follows its £11.6m drop in yearly UK pre-tax profits this spring.

Low-cost airlines and internet booking services are hitting tour operators such as Thomas Cook hard. This year alone, the firm began providing cheap deals in the independent hotel and travel market, set up an 'e-cruise' website and became the first firm to offer budget prices for long-haul flights.

'While Thomas Cook is seen as a traditional high street brand, it is actually doing some very creative things,' Griffiths argues. She feels the firm is not shouting loud enough about how it has 'spread its net wider' than its established remit, and wants the brand to be seen alongside ABTA as an authority on the travel industry with the media. She is also hoping to highlight the range of Thomas Cook holidays in different specialist media.

According to Patrick Barrow, the former Thomas Cook PR man now PRCA director-general and MD, the two biggest challenges facing Griffiths will be repositioning the brand to make it more relevant to modern travellers and dealing with crises in an industry where expectations are 'enormously high and unrealistic'.

Griffiths, who was in charge of PR at P&O Cruises when a virus infected of passengers on board the Aurora last November, comes across as organised and efficient and is no stranger to crisis management. Alerted to the situation while at a conference in Palma, she re-routed calls to the press office to her mobile and ensured her MD was constantly available to the press.

The experience has made Griffiths, who graduated in English Literature from Exeter University, aware of the way that the reporting of a crisis can escalate out of control. She views any crisis in the industry as a potential crisis for Thomas Cook: 'After all, Joe Public doesn't know which tour operator is in trouble - he knows the travel agency he booked the holiday with.'

With responsibility for the PR of Thomas Cook's high street shops, foreign exchange bureaux, call centres, dotcom ventures, TV channel, guide-book publishing and tour operations, Griffiths will have her work cut out.

Particularly because she 'firmly believes in a hands-on approach' and pledges to be available to answer press office phones: 'If someone says to me: you can't do something, I say: watch me.'

She has spent the past 18 months commuting over four hours a day from London to P&O's HQ in Southampton - the day the cruise liner asked her to set up its in-house PR division was the day she completed buying her London house. Forthright, although slightly nervous about her first interview with PRWeek, she is keen to stress that she does not run a 'fluffy' PR department and is not an 'Ab Fab luvvie' - although she admits a penchant for shoe shopping.

After working in travel PR for 11 years, she 'can't imagine' working in a different job. Former boss BGB & Associates MD Debbie Hindle recalls when Griffiths worked at the travel PR specialist: 'We had a Norwegian cruise liner and the Turkish and Caribbean tourist boards as clients.

One day, the top three stories on Radio 4 were: an earthquake in Turkey, a hurricane heading towards the Caribbean and a Norwegian cruise ship had crashed in the Channel. As I understand it, she contemplated pulling a sickie.'

Griffiths confesses she no longer feels the romance and anticipation associated with a holiday. Offered the chance to travel anywhere, she would choose the same holiday she has taken for the past ten years - to a friend's apartment in Turkey: 'Perhaps a Thomas Cook travel agent will be able to change my mind.'


1994 PR executive, McCluskey & Associates

1996 Senior account executive, BGB & Associates

2002 PR manager, P&O Cruises

2004 Head of PR, Thomas Cook

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