Charles Yap | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Innovator 25 AP Charles Yap

Charles Yap

Senior Director, Communications

ONYX Hospitality Group

“Brainstorming with people from different backgrounds and perspectives opens doors and often paves the way for something that I could not have come up with alone”

Now overseeing communications at the fast-growing company behind hotel brands like Amari, OZO and Shama, Charles Yap made his name at IHG, where he spent seven years in numerous markets across the world, playing a key role in developing the hotel giant’s social media presence and voice. Indeed, Yap can credibly be viewed as an digital pioneer on the in-house communications side, with a resume that also includes senior roles at CNBC and Discovery Networks. 

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is the ability to execute a fresh new idea that immediately changes perceptions about a company or a brand. In the PR world, this could take the form of a well-crafted storytelling-driven press release, a collaboration between two brands or quick actions which turn a negative situation towards one that generates positive goodwill.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
KFC’s tongue-in-cheek response following their unexpected chicken shortage in the UK and Ireland earlier this year.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Brands like Airbnb are giving the more established travel industry players food for thought when it comes to creative ways of generating top-of-mind awareness.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
Kickstarting the social media journey for IHG in 2009, and positioning InterContinental as the first hotels to offer iPad related services just as the queues for the first-generation iPads started forming in April 2010.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Yeoh Siew Hoon, veteran travel journalist, one of my first bosses and founder of Web In Travel. Her transition from print to digital, from journalism to connecting people and ideas through events and mentorship, is inspiring.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
More heads are better than one. I bounce off ideas with those around me - my team, my bosses, colleagues from other markets. Brainstorming with people from different backgrounds and perspectives opens doors and often paves the way for something that I could not have come up with alone. It also encourages those around me to always think out of the box.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Google and hashtag search your initial idea or message. If you can’t find anything that looks or sounds like it, chances are that it has legs to go further.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I’d probably be in fashion and design.

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

What's your favourite time of day and why?
Anytime I’m standing — whether waiting for the bus, at the supermarket check out or about to board a flight. That’s why I have a stand-up desk.