When a 178-year old company goes belly up it is no fun for anyone! Six hundred thousand travelers were stranded around the globe as the Thomas Cook Group ceased operations on September 22, 2019. And while this was a nightmare for the British government who repatriated 150,000 residents at no cost to the travelers, many others were not so lucky. But the collapse of the world’s oldest travel brand was not the only casualty.
Take Cook Travel, an air consolidator in New York. NOW LET ME BE CLEAR, THEY ARE FINE. THEY ARE STILL IN BUSINESS AND A GOOD AGENCY. But, undoubtedly for many years prior to the dissolution of Thomas Cook Group, I am confident that Cook Travel appreciated the boost. I am sure when Carlson-Wagonlit was a brand that there were many Carlson Travels out there reaping the benefits.
But I can only imagine the face on the owner of Cook Travel on September 23rd when his Google alert came in (you have Google alerts…right?). All of a sudden the years of unintended good will is putting a very real strain on your viable business.
Within hours, the above message was posted to their website (front and center) and emailed to their customers and agencies pointing out what should be obvious. But, we live in a world where people read tweets and headlines only, so this was a fantastic move on their part. And now, it is business as usual after a stiff drink or two I am sure!
Your brand has to be one of the most valuable assets you have. Remember that kid in middle school your mom never wanted you to hand out with because they were “a bad kid”? That’s what a bad reputation can do. And you need to protect yours at all costs. I mentioned Google alerts—please, if you get noting from this article, set them up. You need to know in near real time exactly what is being said about you and your brand. Did a disgruntled client just go ballistic on Yelp? Has an agent with a similar name across the country been accused of scamming people? Is your name Cook Travel and Thomas Cook just gone belly up?
And when an unfavorable alert pops up (legitimately or not), make sure you are on top of it. If it does not apply to you, it needs to be front and center on your website. You need to reach out via social media (several times) and communicate that via email to your clients and prospects. If it is about you, you need to get spinning this in as favorable light as possible. Was your star employee popped for DUI? How will you handle that as the newspapers all say “Tammy Travel was the star employee of Your Travel Company for 10 years.”? In that case, your attorney should be your first call and you may want to consider a PR pro that works in crisis management.
Whatever happens, this will all blow over eventually, but there will be scars. You need to make sure they are as unnoticeable as possible. You need to keep your eye on the ball. There are sales to be made, people to employ, and profits to be realized. And yes, an agency to be sold.
Most people look at owning an agency as a “job” as opposed to an investment. You put in your blood, sweat, and tears to make it work and the income it generates provides you a living. But don’t forget the value in what you built. In the end, you are going to either pass the business along or sell it off. So, looking at the future, make sure you are in the best position possible.