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July 6, 2015

115: How Cathay Pacific Built a Global Employee Advocacy Program

115: How Cathay Pacific Built a Global Employee Advocacy Program

This week Neal is coming to you from Japan, and he’s talking to Dennis Owen, from Cathay Pacific. The two are talking about Cathay Pacific’s extremely successful employee advocacy program, which Dennis launched simultaneously with their brand campaign “Life Well Traveled.” Dennis explains how he got the higher ups behind him, the platform they use, what kind of content is successful, and the rewards they give for engaging in the program. This is a great episode to listen to if you’ve been trying to figure out how to factor an employee advocacy program into your business plan.


spk_0:   0:03
welcome to maximize your social actionable advice on how your business can maximize your social media presence. Now the host of Maximize Your Social Social Media Author, speaker, consultant, founder of Maximize Social Business, The Social Media Centre of Excellence and the Social Tool Summit. Neil Schaefer Everybody, this is Neil Shaper. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Social. I am here in Tokyo, Japan, as I promised, however, I'm actually not going to be interviewing a Japanese company or even someone who lives in Japan. I had a chance recently through actually reading the E book that I wrote on Employ Advocacy. Dennis Owen from Cathay Pacific is someone who actually reached out to me after reading the book, and we started talking about all the amazing things he's been doing that Cathay Pacific Airways just headquartered in Hong Kong. For those of you who don't know for the Ozu who do business in Asia, quite certain, you know of them and he has a lot of interesting things to share about. The experience is accounted Pacific about employ advocacy, and I'm sure we'll get into some other things. So without further ado, Dennis, welcome to the show

spk_1:   1:08
thank you for having me, Neil, and

spk_0:   1:10
it's really great that we're in a similar time zone. So it's just very easy to coordinate this right being here in Tokyo. So So, Dennis, before we start those that know me, I'm an avid traveler. I just became a one million miler on United Airlines and living in Japan for 15 years. I did a lot of overseas travel and, you know, I chose United Airlines I've worked with on upon Airways as an influencer done some campaigns for them what have you? And when I did business in China, which I did frequently, I would always try to fly on upon airways the Hong Kong. But if it was a choice between Japan Airlines and Kathy, I always chose Cafe and flying from Hong Kong and China always shows Dragon Air, which is a cafe sin city area. So it was really interesting, though, Dennis, on my trip out here, I used my miles to upgrade to business, so I flew United business on the Dreamliner from L. A. To Tokyo. Sitting next to me was a flight attendant, and it was a flight attendant that had to fly out the Tokyo to start, you know, to start working out there. So for him, it was sort of, you know, just transportation. But we ended up talking for most of the flight, and he was sharing all these stories about, you know, United Airlines cabin attendants and pilots and all these, you know. Hey, how do you have a cabin Attendants deal jetlag. Something I've always wanted. Is it Is it Mel Toman is it? You know, do you get used to time zone before you leave? You know, what do pilots think really happened and made 3 70? So we have a really, really interesting and I don't know that, you know, if these are things that these people should be sharing, you know, in social media or not, it's another story. But I realize that you know, employees. I'll have amazing stories to tell. And especially if you're a business traveler. You know, Calvin, attendance people that work on the airplanes, you know, he says, you know, did you know that on the side here on the Dreamliner, if you press this button even on the aisle seat, you can actually lower the arm handle? And I did not know that, and no one ever told me you learn all these things. So that's sort of the way I want to introduce today's story. And I'm sure you have a lot of stories to tell about that. But you know, Dennis, first of all, you're based out of San Francisco. You're now living in Hong Kong, going back and forth. Tell us about first of all, how you got involved with Cathay and how you got involved with the employer advocacy program there.

spk_1:   3:11
Well, how I got involved with cafes. A long story. I'm not gonna go full into that. But I've been with the company for 29 years, so that time has been in the United States, in San Francisco, in Dallas and L. A and I've been in sales and cargo and marketing and moved over here to Hong Kong about a year ago. And I'm working on social media. Currently, I'm in the marketing team and my title is manager brand for the company. August 1. I move over to the corporate communications team and my title there will be group manager, social media, so it will be a full time social media role for the Cathay Pacific Group, which includes Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. So

spk_0:   3:53
I guess first of all is social media currently being run by marketing now. And that's gonna move to corporate communications. Or is it more complex in that?

spk_1:   4:00
Well, I think it's more complex than that. You know, social media has changed a lot over the years. I think you know, when it first came into existence, it was either in marketing or is in corporate communications. But it's really touching almost every department within the company. And that's, Ah, project I've been working on over the last few months. Is looking at How does social media touch the various departments, such as marketing and corporate communications? Sales operations? Reservation? Do you name it? So it's Yeah, it's more complex than just sitting in one department and is, as you know, it's changing drastically and constantly changes. So it's something you have to stay on top of

spk_0:   4:39
indeed, so you're almost like the centre of excellence for Cathay type of role.

spk_1:   4:44
Actually, I am. That's how we haven't set up that always want medias. It's said there is a social media centre of excellence and that that is headed by me, so Yes. Correct.

spk_0:   4:56
Okay. Got your great. So, um, there's obviously, as you said, social. We go from social media to social business, social touches, every department. How did you hit upon an employee? Advocacy. And I know that you mentioned that you had a testimony on dynamic Signal, which is one of these one of the leading and probably the DVD and employ advocacy platform in terms of market share. I believe in United States right now. And you had mentioned that used dynamic suddenly had a testimonial. So employ advocacy and honesty is still I mean, it's not as new as it was a year ago, but it's still very new. I think most companies are looking into how to how to really launch it, build a program. You've been doing it now for some time. So tell me, how did you come upon the topic? How did you convince people internally that this is something that can't they should do? I mean, let's let's talk about how it all started.

spk_1:   5:41
Sure, I think that it just goes back to in terms of how I use social media and, you know, way before we had tools like Dynamic Signal. I was sharing content around Cathay Pacific and Dragonair on LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook, depending on what it Woz and I was realizing, I was getting good reactions to that different kinds of reactions, depending on the channel. But if you know I'm linked in, for example, we wouldn't I was posting things about Cathay Pacific. I would have people reach out to me that we're travelers, that I didn't know where. They weren't aware of the new flight we have from Boston, Hong Kong, for example, things like that. And I realized it's such a great tool to share company stories. And then when and I came across dynamic signal and programs like that, it was just such a natural for me to to realize that this is a great way to share content with through our our own teams, through our own people, to their family and their friends. And I think to particularly now with the Facebook and the algorithms and the organic reach and how that's drastically decreased you we have to look at it the other ways to reach audiences. And, you know, one of the things that I was reading in about advocacy is that there's only about a 10% overlap. Eso it's ah, 90% is brand new. Audiences particularly think being based here in Asia. You know, we've got people have friends, I've got family, that they travel a lot, and so it's an opportunity to share those messages in a more personal way. So

spk_0:   7:16
when you first said that internally to your superiors, what was their reaction

spk_1:   7:24
in marketing? I had a very good reaction from my boss, To be quite honest, I had showed the dynamic signals in a three minute video, and I showed it to him and I said, You know, I said, It's something I think we should try And he wanted me present that there was a director's meeting the next week and he looked at me, said, Can you present that? I said, Sure, So you know, I did that, And at that level, it's not quite as know what internal brand advocacy is. So there's, you know, there was some education going on, but having said that, it's you know, it's Ah, it's something that we did in marketing and started reaching out to her own internal audience just to share the stories. And I think the main reason I wanted to do it because it time very nicely to our new brand campaign, which is called Life Well traveled. And as an airline employees, we travel, we have the opportunity to travel for free. So we ourselves live lives well traveled and people are interested in travel. People like to talk about travel. They'd like to see photos. And I thought, What a great opportunity to tie internal brand advocacy to this new brand campaign life well traveled. So it's been a really nice fit,

spk_0:   8:37
you know? Yeah. I'm thinking about that fit. I'm just thinking, you know, I mean, back when we had Pan am back in the day, I still remember I just aged myself. I remember him too. Yeah, and T w a a National airlines and all the rest of them, You know, there was probably an American airline that flew Thio. I don't know 50 60 70 different countries, but probably right now compared to Cathay And how many countries is can't they fly to you like 100 different countries or

spk_1:   9:00
you fly all over Asia, Europe, North America? We're global Airlines.

spk_0:   9:05
Yeah, I mean more than I think. More than any other American airline. Obviously you're not. You're you're based in Hong Kong, but so I think that life well traveled. If you're really traveling a lot busy in all the countries at some point, you know, even if you live in the States, if you want to go through Asia, you're probably connected in Hong Kong and getting on account. They Pacific flight, right a lot of the time. Absolutely so, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so in that meeting, and obviously I don't want you to share anything. You shouldn't be sharing about your internal company meetings. But was there any pushback or was everybody pretty much, you know, Let's let's give it a try it. It's a small budget. Let's see what happens. Or anybody who doesn't understand social. And there's always an executive team. The few that don't get social. They don't use it. Them. Cheryl, this I don't see why.

spk_1:   9:46
No, I don't think there was purse back. I think there might have been just some lack of understanding of what it it is. I think you know, social media is new to a lot of people, I would say, particularly at the higher levels of cos they think the good news is they know it's important and they want to try new things. So there was no hesitancy in having this put in place for the company. So

spk_0:   10:09
when you started so that's great. And I think in the United States that were, you know, Social Media is a mainstream communication channel. Now everybody knows that. And I think we're pretty much when I talked to other people doing employ advocacy programs. It's pretty similar that pushback is less and less these days to at least start yes. So tell me about how you decided to start. You know, how did you decide to reach out to what type of employee or get others involved? What was sort of that planning process?

spk_1:   10:37
Sure, I think my first thought waas going to talk to our flight attendant group first because they're the ones that travel the most. And then I also reached out to our ground staff because again they travel. But even even people here in the well, I'll call the back office the head office. We travel as well. So I initially was just going to try this in Hong Kong first, but we put it on our interest into Internet age, and it ended up being that we not only got people from Hong Kong, but we got people from other ports around the world to which was totally fine. T try that because I wanted to see where this would be the most effective. And unfortunately, you know, it's been effective in other places besides Hong Kong. And I think the other thing that's been surprising is not only where it's been successful, but the type of person that's been successful. Well, I thought it was going to be to flight attendants, and we do have some on it. But are our number one guy that shares is an engineer and our number two gentlemen is out of our move by customer service center, and they're really, really strong advocates. And these air people that I didn't even know was out there right, So that's the other thing. That's that's great about it, too. Like this, you can find out very quickly whose social media savvy and who are those brand advocates that we just didn't know We're promoting us the way they were. And we've now given them a tool to be even better if that Well,

spk_0:   12:09
let me ask you because you're such a global company and this may not be irrelevant for all American countries. But, you know, in China, obviously, unless you have a VP and you can't access Facebook and Twitter and obviously the social networks, they're gonna be different. You have the we chats, the way balls. Yes, and most most American tool companies cannot. So you're you're actually also being promoted on networks that you can't even measure, right?

spk_1:   12:30
Yes. Yes. Now, fortunately for us, the dynamic signal tool does allow wabe Okay, That's right. Uh, so that that does help. And that was one of the main reasons I chose them. And and I mean, obviously being based here in Hong Kong, China is a massive market for us with the 20 cities that dragon air flies too. So I definitely want to grow that in that particular market too. Now, I think in the future you'll see these internal brand of exceed programs change and evolve, and I'm hopeful that we chat will be included in there at some point because that's that's the major at work in China. Well, I'll look forward to that day.

spk_0:   13:08
So basically everything above that, you can't measure a sort of icing on the cake. It's out there.

spk_1:   13:13
It's all good. Yes. So

spk_0:   13:15
when you started, did you offer? And this is a common topic of debate, you know? Do we gamma phi it? Do we offer rewards? Or was it very much organic? You're all fans of Cathay. You're all doing amazing things. That job you're already probably sharing with your friends. Anyway, here's a way to make it easy to share. What was that sort of the approach?

spk_1:   13:34
Well, what we did mean as an airline, we've got little airline giveaways, different type of items that people could buy. So we did have those. There's a point system that when you share, you get a number of points. So you get those points and then you can get these items. And with what we've also done in its I will definitely do this in the future. This will do some type of quarterly contest. So in the 1st 6 months of the trial, we have the Rugby Sevens here in Hong Kong every March. And so we are big sponsors. Cathay Pacific is a big sponsor of that, and we got some tickets to that. And we use that as part of this internal grand efficacy program just to incentivize people to share. And we have a massive spike in terms of the shares during that particular period, so that it just made me realize that you just keep it interesting and people keeping sharing. We'll probably do something like that once 1/4.

spk_0:   14:30
And it's it's the same external social media. Keep it interesting, have campaigns and shake it up and engaging. So any not studied because, as an airline, I mean, I was showing the cabinets and the united Hey, this is the passport holder I got last time when I flew business and United Thio celebrate the New Dreamliner, and this time they were giving away P G A socks because they were sponsoring a PGA tournament. So you know, you have these argyle socks that you could wear in the cabin, and I'm just thinking it's probably lots of as an airline. You're creating lots of these things that you could give away right internally. But yeah, for other companies out there employ optics, especially for B to B companies that are better embarking on social selling. It becomes really critical. But what sort of things can you give away? And I like the idea of sponsorship because even, you know, the oracles, the world and the B to B companies are also sponsoring lots of different sports or events. And and there's a perfect things to give away as well.

spk_1:   15:18
Yeah, yeah, well, you know, it doesn't have to be anything massively expensive. To be honest with you, we just had a ah ah strategy session on this last week with the team about how do we scale this? Now that we've got this going, how do we scale this over the next year? And when you're a global company, it becomes even harder to figure out. Okay, What what's what might be valuable and easy to give away here in Hong Kong, like a Rugby seven ticket? What do you do in the United States or India, where people can't necessarily use that? But, you know, it could be something as simple Starbuck cards. You know, there's Starbucks everywhere. You're sure you could do something like that. Oh, are some other kind of global companies. So I think it's it's a matter of just having something fun for people. Like said, It doesn't have to be super expensive because I think people that are that are going to get involved with internal brand advocacy are already sharing things, and they find the joy of that worth that as well. We're not going to get people in internal brand programs that are on social media. They're the ones that are already there, the ones that are excited about something like this, essentially, like these 1st 2 gentlemen. I was talking about that that sure that most they were just so excited, right that there was now a tool to help them to be able to share the brand messages.

spk_0:   16:36
That's awesome. So let me ask you and I know a lot of other people are listening are wondering about, you know, um, for lack of a better word. KP I So I actually did a dynamic signal webinar with the director of Social for Pitney bows and how they're using dynamic signaling about their employees advocacy program and the number of people that are probably part of the program as a proportion of your total employee base, I'm gonna assume is less than 1%. I don't know how much this you can share publicly about, but that's right less than. But obviously less than 1% though, could be a huge in terms of amplification could be a huge numbers. So can you tell me first of all, on average, how many articles or how many posts are you putting out there through dynamic signal? Asking employees to share on isn't like once a week. Is it every day? Oh,

spk_1:   17:24
no, no, it's more than that. In fact, I think even dynamic Signal was quite shocked at how many submissions were coming in because I my person on my team that was doing this. She was even working on the weekends, trying to keep up with all the posts that were being submitted, and I went to dynamic signal. I said, You know, is it normal? And he said, No, that's not normal at all, so people have been really super engaged. But again, I think it's the topic. It's travel. It's not just topics around Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air, but it's also about the destinations that we fly to and those hidden places that nobody knows about. And just you know, that the 10 best beaches in Southeast Asia, these are the kind of things that that tie very, very well to our life will travel to campaign some. While it doesn't necessarily relate specifically to the airline, I don't think we we want just that, you know? And I don't think there is a magic formula that my my theory is, you know, it should be about 25 30% company news, and the rest of it should be travel related or left. Will travel really

spk_0:   18:31
was another question I have for you, so yeah,

spk_1:   18:33
yeah, so there's there's plenty of content out there that that people are interested in, and uh, so that that has not been hard in terms of getting people to submit stories. So

spk_0:   18:45
for that 25% of content and that's content created by your team for people to share

spk_1:   18:50
well, actually, no. That's the other funny thing. It's when you look at a company like Cathy Pacific. We tend to be fairly understated. We're not a company that's out there bragging about ourselves, but There are other entities talking about us all the time in terms of awards that we've gotten or the new service is. So I haven't found that that's been a real problem of finding content around Catholic Pacific and Dragonair. And sure we have our own content as well as we will definitely share that. Like I said, with the life will travel campaign, we've got our own You know, Instagram programs out there around Crew Diaries, for example, in ads are crew talking about the place that they give to and they didn't find. So we'll share that definitely on the dynamic signal total the Templars other. There's plenty of other entities out there talking about the airlines.

spk_0:   19:36
You are in a luxurious pool, swimming in content that sounds like think of like, which is a great place to be exactly. So you know, we're near the end of the podcast. I like to keep these relatively short and sweet. I want to ask you, Is there any in terms of the r A y or in terms of, you know, any any data, any numbers that you could share publicly about? You know what the successes have been so far, and then China lee any recommendations you have for other companies, just based on what you've seen of how to I mean, it sounds like because of the brand and because of the industry and because your global reach, you naturally were able to tap into very you didn't have to beg people to submit content, right. But for other companies, that might be a little bit different. So if you have any advice as well, in addition, that data would be a great way to end the podcast.

spk_1:   20:18
Yeah, well, I think in terms of the Roo, I'll tell you a couple of things. I like the dining dynamic signal dashboard because it gives you a sense of what's being shared, how many clicks. One of the re shares. One of the comments, and it's been really, really valuable for me to be able to see what kind of content resonates the best. And, yes, company news is great. Our number one shared post was really about around life, well travelled when it first came out, which again that was perfect for me because it's exactly why I wanted to do this, obviously. So the dashboard just give you Cem Cem Good statistics now on on R A Y and Impressions created, I think. Also just a side story is the gentleman in India saw Hell is his name, and he is probably the happiest man on the planet. He just has one of those great personalities. And he was saying that when he started with this program, he started sharing this content where we're not We're not a local scary where a premium carrier. And he said in the beginning he was sharing these things and his friends saying, Oh, why should I? Like at the Pacific, you know there's low cost carrier options, but as he shared, you got people actually to understand that there is value and paying a bit more for the product, and a couple of his friends booked a ticket. So that's exactly what we want. You know, we want people understand that we're a premium airline and there's value in terms of flying on Catholic Pacifica, Dragonair. So I think those were you know, that's a It's a great story that is wanted to share. I think if I were another company and starting like said, I think it's travel is a good one because lots of people like to talk about travel. But if I was in another tough of business, I would probably start looking at what news is interesting, too. Our clients are customers and not just internal news, but get out there and look and see what other people are saying about your brand. I think it's really valuable when you are able to share stories from other people, not the brand, because you know your statistics for now, showing it's it's what people say they believe more than the actual brand. So find content that is out there about your brand and share that it doesn't have to come specifically from your old company,

spk_0:   22:35
which also helps you. You know, Philip, for lack of a better word editorial calendar. You don't have to have the burden of content creation on yourself, right? There's a whole world of knowledge out there. That's great advice. You know, Dennis, as I'd say, we never do an interview. We could probably spend an hour talking, but unfortunately I know you have work to do. I have work to do, but I've really enjoyed our conversation, and I know that those listen have gotten a lot out of it, Dennis. How Cam? If people want to learn more about what Kathy is doing with your program or find out more about Cathy about you, is there Ah, website or a twitter handle? Any place you'd recommend people go to

spk_1:   23:08
my Twitter side is at Dennis Owen, which is simple d and and I S O W e. And you can also find Mia linked in a Cafe Pacific to

spk_0:   23:18
great Denis. Thank you so much for your time today. Thank you, Neil. Well, I'm going to sign out here from Tokyo, Japan, via Skype with Hong Kong so globally speaking, wherever you are in the world today, make it a great social day, but by everybody. Thanks for listening to maximize your social. We appreciate all of your iTunes subscriptions, ratings and comments. If you would like to appear on the show or recommend content, please contact Neil Schaffer at Neil at maximize your social dot com. Please. Also make sure to check out Neil's new community, the Social Media Centre of Excellence at social media, c o e dot com, as well as Neil's Social Media Conference, the Social Tools Summit, which will be in San Francisco on October 27 28