Women & Leadership: Ritz-Carlton leader focuses on engaging all team members

Lisa Holladay, global brand leader for The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, and Bulgari Hotels & Resorts and a speaker with The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, joined the luxury hotel brand after a decade spent working for Mercedes-Benz. She began her career at a D.C. public relations firm and has also held positions with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and the Association of California School Administrators.

At Ritz-Carlton for nearly six years now, she oversees global and corporate brand marketing strategy as well as marketing operations for Edition Hotels while also serving on the advisory board of the Erwin Penland Advertising and Marketing School at Clemson University. Here, HOTEL MANAGEMENT speaks with Holladay about her diverse professional experiences and her perspective on women professionals.

Your professional background includes work in both public and private sectors. Did you find one is more successful at employing and retaining women executives?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that one was more successful than the other, but rather that they are very different and therefore offered varied opportunities. What I will say is that in any work environment, company culture and management play a major role in retaining all employees—both men and women. It’s imperative to empower and engage all team members, and I think that philosophy goes very far when it comes not only to employees being successful and happy in their positions, but also the company’s ability to attract and retain the best possible talent. It’s important to speak up when these parameters aren’t being met, which can be hard to do at times, but part of being a leader is finding your voice and using it.

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Women make up 85% of all consumer purchases. To what extent is this a consideration for you when devising Ritz-Carlton marketing and advertising campaigns?

Our mission at The Ritz-Carlton is to create memories for all guests—to craft an experience that’s applicable to all audiences and is so exceptional that it stays with our guests long after they leave. And when it comes to a luxury hotel, I think everyone wants the same thing—to feel genuinely looked after and cared for, which is certainty something we know how to get right at The Ritz-Carlton! So, while women do make up a large number of consumer purchases, we try not to box ourselves when it comes to the way we communicate with and attract guests. I’ve often said that it isn’t my job to sell guests a room, but to provide them with an experience that inspires loyalty and creates memories. This, above all, is really what we try to speak to with all of our marketing and advertising efforts.

Could you talk about the work you do serving on the board at Clemson University’s Erwin Center for Brand Communications?

Serving on the board is an incredibly enriching experience, given its mission to help prepare students for careers in brand marketing and advertising. As this is a field I’m passionate about and have built my career around, I take pride in personally mentoring two female Clemson University students, helping to give them a sense of direction for their own future careers. I have been fortunate to have great mentors in my own career and believe strongly in the power of these relationships. With these two students I work to act as a sounding board, encourage them to think about and set long-term career goals, and challenge them to think strategically about their professional development. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet some of the future leaders of tomorrow, and to work with two determined young women who are striving to make their mark on the industry.

If you could partner with one woman on a professional project or personal endeavor, who would it be and why?

When I was in college, I studied education and was on track to be a teacher before discovering my love for brand management. That being said, education is still something that’s very important to me and I would love to meet Wendy Kopp, the CEO of Teach For America. I think she’d make an inspiring speaker for our ladies and gentlemen and her commitment to empowering communities and advancing access for all is truly an inspiration. Corporate social responsibility has been a guiding principle of The Ritz-Carlton since our inception and it remains a key pillar of our business. Part of that program is working with local schools and engaging the properties to become active and beneficial members of their neighborhoods.

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