By Louise Findlay-Wilson, Founder of Energy PR and PrPro

Thomas Cook recently created a golden PR opportunity for a smaller, more nimble rival, and the competitor grabbed it with both hands, giving us a masterclass in how simple but effective a great PR stunt can be.

When a man called Thomas Cook, aged 26 cheekily asked the travel firm via its facebook page for a free trip to Paris in recompense for all the ‘ridicule and torment’ he had endured during all the years he’d shared a name with them, the travel company snubbed him saying “unfortunately we can’t give away free holidays” then directing him to their website for the best prices.

However, rival firm LowCostHolidays deployed a much more fun attitude and stepped in to give Mr. Cook his free trip.

Its marketing bosses wrote on their giant rival’s facebook page:

‘We sympathise with your suffering…. 'So to offer a helping hand to customers who, as we like to say, have been “Thomas Crooked”, how about we send you to Paris?’

What a brilliant touch! Better still they said Mr. Cook could take a friend with him too and asked him to report back with photos of his travels.

Thomas Cook (the person) – took up the offer and flew to France earlier this month and took lots of cheery snaps which were duly shared across the social media channels and throughout the mainstream media!

Thomas Cook the travel firm argued in response to all of this that they are inundated with requests from similarly named members of the public and so couldn’t favour him. I can understand that the company may not have wanted to open the floodgates to all the Thomas Cooks out there, however they could have handled this so much better! Why not create a club for all the Thomas Cooks – and let them have offers and discounts? Or why not give this particular Mr Cook a trip and use it as a launch of a campaign to reward one person every month who shares a name with a company – the funniest being chosen by the company each month?

However, I’m not writing this to lambast the travel giant, what I’d really like to draw your attention to is the smart and swift approach of its smaller rival.

Any small travel company could have done what LowCostHolidays did. It wasn’t that sophisticated or expensive. It just required a deft touch and some quick thinking. They saw an opportunity and grabbed it. To be honest such ‘guerilla’ marketing is so much easier to execute when you’re a smaller business, with few departments, teams and brand managers to get an idea past.

So let this moment of genius by this firm be an inspiration to you.

Thomas Cook (L) in Paris. Photo courtesy of lowcostholidays.com (picture: Ingur)

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