Our PR influencer of the week – The Devon Facebook ‘ranter’
It’s a long-standing gripe of parents and families – in fact, almost everyone. I don’t have kids, and I’d love to go on holiday in July, but I can’t afford it because the holiday companies whack the prices up three-fold.
Paying a premium to go on holiday outside the school term is something many of us bitch about. So when Paul Cookson had a mini rant to his 250 or so friends on Facebook about Center Parcs, it wasn’t anything particularly new. His comments about being “sick to death of being ripped off by holiday companies” resonated with a few friends, who followed his request to share it “if you’ve also had enough.”
Like all these things, before he knew it the post went viral. More than 143,000 people have shared it so far. Supporters have signed an online petition calling for government action, going way beyond the 100,000 signatures needed for a possible debate in Parliament. Almost 200,000 people have signed another petition calling for the rule about fines for taking kids on holiday during term time to be reversed.
In his new-found social media crusader status (which he is ‘gobsmacked’ at), the 41-year-old from Devon has now set up a Facebook group called Holiday Price Increase, where people are invited to share examples of price changes. There are over 10,000 members already. He’s also re-ignited support on an e-petition calling for price regulation, raising awareness and increasing the chance that holiday providers might change their policies.
His mission now is to work with holiday firms directly to advise them on the business of reduced-priced holidays.
Cookson’s crusade has unwittingly been so influential even big holiday companies have had to respond:
- The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said prices were “an issue of supply and demand”, but a potential solution would be staggering holiday dates (they do this in Germany)
- Virgin Holidays said its view on the issue was “broadly in line” with ABTA’s
- The DfE said academies and free schools already had the power to set term dates, and council-run schools would get that power from 2015
- The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the UK holiday industry was “extremely competitive” and relied on profits from “peak periods”
- Center Parcs said its prices were based on supply and demand.
As social media managers, we all bow to his greatness. So is he a clever businessman, or just a genuinely pissed off parent? I believe the latter, and that’s when social media is at its best – the more authentic it is, the more you want to support it. His rant was from the heart and struck a chord with public feeling.
Power to the people, and power to Paul Cookson – a worthy Influencer of the Week.