Social media tearing down silos, says Cathay Pacific’s new social lead

Cathay Pacific has named long-serving marketing executive Dennis Owen as group manager of social media, taking over a rapidly growing area of its business.

Previously brand manager for Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong, Owen has also held the role of VP of marketing for Cathay Pacific in the US.

In this newly created role, Owen said he will approach social media from a much higher and broader perspective, looking at the role of social media in sales, HR, operations, customer relations, crisis management and corporate communications.

“Right now I’m a bit of a one man band in terms of enterprise social media, but I work closely with our digital marketing team where we have a team of five who work on digital and social areas,” he told Marketing.

“They are assisting me in looking at how we mature social media into other departments as everything really started with them in the first place.”

Cathay Pacific is one of Hong Kong’s more active brands on social media and has the audience to match. The brand commands a large Facebook presence with more than 1.2 million followers and on Twitter it’s total global user base exceeds 300,000.

Owen officially started his role on 1 August, but has been working on a project since last January looking at social media at the enterprise level and what it means for the company.

“Based on that project looking at brand protection and band promotion the company decided to create a position devoted strictly to social media. That’s a good thing as overseeing social and brand at the same time was really getting to be too much for one person.”

As group manager of social media, he will report into Cathay’s director corporate affairs, James Tong.

“The reality is that because social media touches so many different departments I am still quite involved with the marketing team, where our digital team remains, and increasingly other departments in the company.”

In wide ranging opinion piece published on LinkedIn, Owen explained social was a fast moving trend that must be watched closely.

“As social media evolves, companies need to mature in terms of how they view the discipline. No longer is social media just about clever marketing campaigns or gathering as many fans as you can on Facebook.”

An active Twitter user himself, Owen stressed social was a critical part of crisis communications and cited AirAsia as a recent and example.

“In this case, social media was used extensively to inform the public of what was happening and they handled the communications aspect well. However, if you get the communications efforts wrong it can be deadly for brands in the eyes of the public. From my current perspective this is the most important department around social media and we cannot afford to get social media wrong in cases of crisis communications.

“It will be an interesting journey to ensure that Cathay Pacific as a company is at the forefront in the area of social media.”

Cathay Pacific recently announced Julian Lyden had taken on the role of general manager of marketing, loyalty programmes & CRM.

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