Could an incident that occurred a decade ago create more reputational damage now for the company involved than when the incident first occurred? This is arguably the case for Thomas Cook, who have been under immense pressure in recent weeks over their handling of the high-profile deaths of two children on holiday in Corfu in 2006.
The Independent’s view “a tragedy to a corporate disaster” has been widely voiced, with the public and media consensus being that Thomas Cook’s communications strategy is “too little too late”.
Timeline of events:
Thomas Cook’s mistakes and subsequent quick fixes have caused immeasurable damage to the firm’s reputation and future value as they enter a crucial trading period. The Group would expect to be selling holidays to families gearing up for the summer break. Meanwhile, it has been reported that around £75m has been wiped off the company’s share price this week as investor’s dumped stock. Only time will tell whether the share price will recover. This will largely depend on any subsequent actions the Company take to stop the rot.
Fankauser has now done what his predecessor should have done back in 2006; given the parents a sincere apology.
Holly Ward, co-founder of The Forge commented: “As a nation we respond well to humility; even if Peter Fankhauser didn’t want to imply his company was to blame by offering an apology to the parents of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, a little humility would have gone a long way in showing his company actually cared. The Unicef donation smacked of a quick fix that missed its mark.”
The incident can serve as a lesson not only for Thomas Cook, but the majority of companies. Thomas Cook went far too much down the legal route, allowing its lawyers and bean counters to dictate how it dealt with a grieving family, instead of actioning a robust crisis communications plan, or having the inclination to do the right thing.
Julian Pike, Head of Reputation Management at Farrer & Co stated: “From the outset, Thomas Cook should have made the family its priority, irrespective of the legal advice or insurers' requirements. Its own financial wellbeing should also have come a long way second.”