Sean Seah | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2017
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Innovator 25 AP - Sean SeahThe Innovator 25:

Sean Seah

Head of Digital Experience 

HSBC  
Hong Kong

“Innovation often involves change and change is often rejected by people.”

A technology entrepreneur with significant experience at such startups as Travelocity, Groupon, BondsinAsia and Asia Pacific Digital, Sean Seah joined HSBC to oversee its digital experience one year ago. It is a critical role, and one that calls on all of Seah’s experience across corporate, digital and technology transformation — at Groupon for example, Seah led the 100+ regional team to build a mobile social commerce travel company through a period of rapid growth. At Langham, meanwhile, he was responsible for leading the hotels global e-business, loyalty and partner marketing initiatives. And at Travelocity, Seah established ZUJI as the Asia Pacific's award winning online travel agent. 

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is the passionate choice to believe in a better reality when everyone and everything cannot see what you see and the resilience to drive change in the face of opposition.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
The recent Payme launch by HSBC was very innovative. The idea that we can make sending money to people as easy as sending an instant message was the idea that drive the team to develop and launch the product. It was launch to overwhelming demand and has been an extremely engaging and social platform to enable social payments via mobile.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
RFI Daylight.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
We wanted to position our Langham Place Hotels brand as the fusion of technology and art. We dreamed about creating a series of short films that showed the kind of experiences that our guests could have combined with a fantastical twist. We wanted to stretch the idea even further and film the entire series on an iphone 4. No other hotel company has ever done this before and we did not know if it would work. We jumped into the campaign and pushed out team to the technical limits. We launched the campaign to resounding success and managed to reposition the Langham brand significantly higher through social media.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Digital & ecommerce platforms

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
More innovative then other marketing disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Content & creative.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
CEO

Who is your mentor and why?
The biggest influencer on my career has been Scott Blume the past CEO of Travelocity Asia Pacific. He was able to see the leadership potential within me,  promoted me to run a country business very early in my career and supported and mentored me to success. 

How do you find inspiration?
Every morning I spend an hour in reflection. I think about what happened yesterday and focus on the key wins and the key lessons from the day. Then I look at what I need to do for the day ahead and plan.

What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
The key to driving successful innovation is trust. Innovation often involves change and change is often rejected by people. When you are able to build trust with the key people in the organisation, then they are more willing to accept change and innovation. Removing this resistance to change barrier is key to long lasting innovation. 

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
New Zealand - when you are so far away from the rest of the world and you have scarce resources, innovation is key to move from surviving to thriving. 

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Mornings are the best time of the day because I spend the first hour reflecting on what happened yesterday and I get to plan what my day ahead will be like.