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.
[00:30] Introduction of Podcast Guest, Dennis Owen
[03:05] How Dennis Got Into Employee Advocacy
[05:40] How Employee Advocacy Started in Cathay Pacific
[09:46] The Lack of Understanding in Employee Advocacy
[10:36] The Planning Process
[13:34] The Approach on Rewards
[17:24] Measuring KPIs
[20:18] Final Thoughts
[22:57] Connect With Dennis
- And I think the main reason I wanted to do it is because it ties very nicely to our new brand campaign, which is called life all traveled. And as an airline, employees we traveled, we have the opportunity to travel for free. So we ourselves, live lives well traveled. And people are interested in travel, people liked 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.
- I think it's, it's a matter of just having something fun for people like, 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 work that as well.
- When you look at a company like Cathay 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 services. So I haven't found that that's been a real problem of finding content around Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. And sure, we have our own content, as well as we will definitely share that, like I said, with the lawful travel campaign.
- You know, we want people to understand that we're a premium airline. And there's value in terms of flying on Cathay Pacific Dragonair. So I think those were, you know, that's a it's a great story that I just wanted to share.
- 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.
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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, their social media center of excellence, and the social tools Summit, Neal Schaffer. Everybody this is Neal Schaffer, 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 employee advocacy. Dennis Oh, and 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, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, for those of you who don't know, for those of you who do business in Asia, I'm quite certain, you know, of them. And he has a lot of interesting things to share about the experiences of Cathay Pacific about employee advocacy, and I'm sure we'll get into some other things. So without further ado, Dennis, welcome to the show.Dennis Owen:
Thank you for having me, Neil.Neal Schaffer:
And it's really great that we're in a similar time zone. So it was 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 1 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 All Nippon Airways as an influencer, you know, I've done some campaigns for them and what have you. And when I did business in China, which I did frequently, I would always try to fly on upon airways to Hong Kong. But if it was a choice between Japan Airlines and Cathay, I always chose cafe. And flying from Hong Kong into China always shows dragon air, which is a Cathay subsidiary. So it was really interesting though, Dennis on my trip out here, I use my miles to upgrade to business. So I flew United business on the Dreamliner, from LA to Tokyo, sitting next to me was a flight attendant. And it was a flight attendant that had to fly out to 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 how do cabin attendants deal with jetlag? Something I've always wondered, Is it is it melatonin? Is it, you know, do you get used to the time zone before you leave? So we have this, you know, what do pilots think really happen to mh 370. So we have a really, really interesting, and I don't know if that's, 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 realized that, you know, employees all have amazing stories to tell, and especially if you're a business traveler, you know, cabin attendants, 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 IOC, you can actually lower the arm handle, and I did not know that, and no one ever told me. So you know, 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 you know, living in Hong Kong, going back and forth. Tell us about, first of all, how you got involved with cafe and how you got involved with the employee advocacy program there.Dennis Owen:
Well, how I got involved with cafes, long story, I'm not going to go fully into that. But I did with the company for 29 years. So that time has been in the United States in San Francisco and Dallas and LA, 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 around social media. Currently, I'm in the marketing team. And my title is manager brand for the company. August one, 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.Neal Schaffer:
So I guess, first of all, is social media currently being run by marketing now, and that's going to move to corporate communications. Are that more complex than that? Well,Dennis Owen:
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 a 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 communication, sales, operations, reservations, 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,Neal Schaffer:
indeed. So you're almost like the Center of Excellence for Cafe type of role.Dennis Owen:
Actually, I am. That's how we have it set up that always starts as one of the social medias. It said there is a Social Media Center of Excellence and that that is headed by me so Yes, correct.Neal Schaffer:
Okay, gotcha. Great. So there's obviously The as you said, social we go from social media to social business social is, you know, touches every department, how did you hit upon I mean employee advocacy. And I know that you mentioned that you had a testimonial on dynamic signal, which is one of these, one of the leading and probably the leading employee advocacy platform in terms of market share, I believe in the United States right now. And you had mentioned that use dynamics, and we had a testimonial. So employee advocacy in all 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. And 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 they should do? I mean, let's, let's talk about how it all started?Dennis Owen:
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 was. And I was realizing I was getting good reactions to that different kinds of reactions, depending on the channel. But if, you know, on LinkedIn, for example, when I was posting things about Cathay Pacific, I would have people reach out to me that were travelers that I didn't know or they weren't aware of the new flight we have for Boston, Hong Kong, for example, things like that. And I realized, it's such a great tool to share company stories. And then when I came across dynamic signal and programs like that, it was just such a natural for me to realize that this is a great way to share content with through our own teams, through our own people, to their family and their friends. And I think too, particularly now with the the Facebook and the algorithms and the organic reach and how that's drastically decreased. You we have to look at the other ways to reach audiences. And you know, one of the things that I was reading in about advocacy is that, you know, there's only about a 10% overlap. So it's a 90% is brand new audiences, and particularly thick being based here in Asia, you know, we've got people have friends, they've got family that they travel a lot. And so it's an opportunity to share those messages in a more personal way.Neal Schaffer:
So when you first said that internally to your superiors, what was their reaction?Dennis Owen:
In marketing, I had a very good reaction from my boss, to be quite honest, I had showed the dynamic signal to 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 to present that there was a directors meeting the next week, and he looked at me said, Can you present that? And I said, Sure. So you know, I did that. And at that level, it's not quite as known 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 a, it's something that we did in marketing, and started reaching out to our own internal audience to share the stories. And I think the main reason I wanted to do it is because it ties very nicely to our new brand campaign, which is called life all traveled. And as an airline, employees we traveled, we have the opportunity to travel for free. So we ourselves, live lives well traveled. And people are interested in travel, people liked 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.Neal Schaffer:
And you know, yeah, and 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 Twa and national airlines and all the rest of them. You know, there was probably an American airline that flew to, I don't know, 50 6070 different countries, but probably right now, compared to cafe and how many countries is count, they fly to you? Like, like 100 Different countries orDennis Owen:
you fly all over Asia? Europe, North America? We're global airlines. Yeah,Neal Schaffer:
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 and 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 connecting in Hong Kong and getting on the Cathay Pacific flight right. A lot of the time. Absolutely. So yeah, so 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, you know, meetings, but was there any pushback, or was everybody pretty much you know? Let's give it a try. 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 share all this Don't cry.Dennis Owen:
No, I don't think there was pushback. I think there might have been just some lack of understanding of what it is. I think, you know, social media is new to a lot of people I would say particularly at the higher levels of companies. They are And the good news is they know what's important. And they want to try new things. So there was no hesitancy and having this put in place for the company.Neal Schaffer:
So when you started, so that's great. And I think in the United States that we're, you know, social media is a mainstream communication channel. Now, everybody knows that. And I think we're pretty much when I talk to other people doing employee advocacy programs, it's pretty similar that 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?Dennis Owen:
Sure, I think in my first thought was going to talk to our flight attendant group first, because they're the ones that traveled the most. And then I also reached out to our ground staff, because again, a travel, but even even people here in the world, 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 intro internet page. And it ended up being that we not only got people from Hong Kong, but we got people from other ports around the world, too, which was totally fine to try that because I wanted to see where this would be the most effective. And I 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 the flight attendants. And we do have some on it. But our our number, one guy that shares is an engineer. And our number two gentlemen is out of our Mumbai Customer Service Center. And they are really, really strong advocates. And these are people that we didn't even know was out there. Right. So that's the sad thing. That's, that's great about a tool like this, you can find out very quickly, who's social media savvy? And who are those brand advocates that we just didn't know, were promoting us the way they were? And we've now given them a tool to be even better at that?Neal Schaffer:
Well, let me ask his own because you're such a global company. And this may not be relevant for all American countries. But you know, in China, obviously, unless you have a VPN, you can't access Facebook and Twitter. And obviously, the social networks, they're going to be different. You have the WeChat. The way balls, yes. And most most American tool companies cannot vote, you're actually also being promoted on networks that you can't even measure, right?Dennis Owen:
Yes, yes. Now fortunately, for us, the dynamic signal tool does allow Weibo. Okay, that's great. So that that does help. And that was one of the main reasons I chose them in I mean, obviously being based here in Hong Kong, China is a massive market for us with the 20 cities, a dragon are flies too. So I definitely want to grow that in that particular market to now I think, in the future, you'll see these internal brand of programs change and evolve. And I'm hopeful that WeChat will be included in there at some point, because that's that's the major network in China. And I'll look forward toNeal Schaffer:
that day. So basically, everything above that you can't measure a sort of icing on the cake. It's it's out there. Yeah, it's all good. So yes. So when you started did you offer and this is a common topic of debate, you know, do we gamify it? Do we offer rewards, or wasn't very much organic? You're all fans of cafe, you're all doing amazing things that job? You know, 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?Dennis Owen:
Well, what we did mean, as an airline, we've got little airline giveaways, different types of items that people can buy. So we did have those, there's a point system, that when you share you, you get a number of points. So you get those points, and then you can get these items. And we've What we've also done and it's I will definitely do this in the future, is we'll do some type of quarterly contests. So in the first six 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 brand advocacy program, just to incentivize people to share and we had a massive spike in terms of the shares Yeah, during that particular period. So that just made me realize that just keep it interesting and people keeping sharing, we'll probably do something like that once a quarterNeal Schaffer:
and it's it's the same as external social media, keep it interesting, have campaigns shake it up and engaging so and you know, it's funny because as an airline, I mean, I was showing the cabinet tonight united. Hey, this is the passport holder I got last time when I flew businessing united to you know, celebrate the new Dreamliner and, and this time, they were giving away PGA socks, because they were sponsoring a PGA tournament. So you know, you had these argyle socks that you could wear in the cabin, and I'm just thinking there'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 and Plavix II, especially for b2b companies that are that are embarking on social selling, it becomes really critical. But what sort of things can you give away? And I like the idea of sponsorships, because even, you know, the oracles of the world and the b2b companies are also sponsoring lots of different, you know, sports or events. And, and those are perfect things to give away as well.Dennis Owen:
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, it doesn't have to be anything massively expensive to be honest with you. I mean, we just had a 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 can be something as simple as Starbuck cards, you know, there's Starbucks everywhere? Sure, sure. Yeah, you could do something like that, or some other kind of global company. So I think it's, it's a matter of just having something fun for people like, 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 work 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 they're the ones that are excited about something like this, essentially, like these first two gentlemen, I was talking about that that share the most, they were just so excited, right, that there was now a tool to help them to be able to share the brand messages.Neal Schaffer:
That's awesome. So let me ask you, and I know a lot of other people are listening, are wondering about, you know, for lack of a better word, KPIs. So I actually did a dynamic signal webinar with the Director of Social for Pitney Bowes, and how they're using dynamic signal and about their employee advocacy program. And the number of people that are probably part of the program as a proportion of your total employee base, I'm going to assume is less than 1%. I don't know how much this you can share publicly. But that's correct, right? Less than but but obviously, less than 1%, or can be a huge in terms of amplification can be a huge number. So 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 is it like once a week, is it every day?Dennis Owen:
Oh, 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. He 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 Dragonair. But it's also about the destinations that we fly to, and those hidden places that nobody knows about. And just, you know, the 10 best beaches in Southeast Asia, these are the kinds of things that that tie very, very well to our life well traveled campaign. So while it doesn't necessarily relate specifically to the airline, I don't think we we want just that, you know, I don't think there's 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 real.Neal Schaffer:
That was another question I have for you. So yeah, yeah. So there's, there'sDennis Owen:
plenty of content out there that that people are interested in. And so that that has not been hard in terms of getting people to submit stories.Neal Schaffer:
So for that 25% of content, and that content created by your team, for people to share? Well, actually,Dennis Owen:
no, that's the other funny thing. It's when you look at a company like Cathay 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 services. So I haven't found that that's been a real problem of finding content around Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. Ensure we have our own content, as well as we will definitely share that, like I said, with the lawful travel campaign. We've got our own, you know, Instagram programs out there around crew diaries, for example. And that's our crew talking about the place that they go to, and they hidden fine. So we'll share that definitely on the dynamic simple tool that there's other there's plenty of other entities out there talking about the airlines, you areNeal Schaffer:
in a luxurious pool swimming in content that sounds like I think I'd like it is a great place to be exactly. So you know, we're near the end of the podcast. I like to keep these you know, relatively short and sweet. I want to ask you, is there any in terms of the ROI 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 finally, any record commendations 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 had any advice as well, in addition to that data, that'd be a great way to end the podcast. Yeah.Dennis Owen:
Well, I think in terms of the ROI, I'll tell you a couple things. I like the dinette dynamic signal dashboard, because it gives you a sense of what's being shared how many clicks, one of the reshares 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 posts was really about around lightful traveled when it first came out, which again, that was perfect for me, because it's exactly what I wanted to do. That's obvious, right? So the the dashboard does give you some good statistics now on on ROI, and impressions created. I think also just a side story is the gentleman in India. Sahil 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 are not we're not a low cost carrier. We're a premium carrier. And he said in the beginning, he was sharing these things and his friends were saying, Oh, why should I fly? Cathay Pacific, you know, there's low cost carrier options. But as he shared, he got people actually to understand that there is value in paying a bit more for the product, and a couple of his friends booked a ticket. So I mean, that's exactly what we want. You know, we want people to understand that we're a premium airline. And there's value in terms of flying on Cathay Pacific Dragonair. So I think those were, you know, that's a it's a great story that I just 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 bedfellows and another type of business, I would probably start looking at what news is interesting to our clients or customers. And not just Internal news, but 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 are now showing 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 company,Neal Schaffer:
which also helps you, you know, fill up 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, whenever I 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 listening have gotten a lot out of it. Dennis, how can if people want to, you know learn more about what Kathy is doing with your program or find out more about Kathy about you? Is there. A website or a Twitter handle or any place you'd recommend people go toDennis Owen:
my Twitter site is that Dennison which is simple, D and n i s o w e and you can also find me on LinkedIn at Cathay Pacific to greatNeal Schaffer:
Dennis, thank you so much for your time today.Dennis Owen:
Thank you, Neil.Neal Schaffer:
Well, I'm gonna sign out here from Tokyo, Japan, via Skype with Hong Kong. So globally speaking, wherever you're on the world today, make it a great social Day. Bye Bye, 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 Neal Schaffer at Neal at maximize your social calm. Please also make sure to check out Neil's new community, the Social Media Center of Excellence at social media ce o e.com. As well as Neil's social media conference, the social tools Summit, which will be in San Francisco on October 27 and 28th.