Each month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee—also known as a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton—in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. This month’s interview is with Lisa Holladay, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing.
RCLC: Please tell us a little about your role in the organization.
Ms. Holladay: As Vice President of Global Brand Marketing, I oversee all of our brand and digital marketing efforts across the world. It’s a fabulous job!
RCLC: How did you arrive at The Ritz-Carlton?
Ms. Holladay: I joined The Ritz-Carlton a little over three years ago. I was in the luxury automotive space before that, and I joined as leader of the brand management and guest experience team. In March of this year, I switched to lead the marketing team.
RCLC: What do you appreciate about The Ritz-Carlton culture?
Ms. Holladay: The culture is one of the reasons I wanted to join The Ritz-Carlton. I also wanted to change to hospitality because I love travel and hotels—so that was a passion point. But I chose The Ritz-Carlton specifically because of the culture.
I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and we would go to Atlanta and stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. I remember the hotel as the epitome of luxury to me, gracious and lovely, and everyone so kind.
For me, the genuine belief that people have in the Credo of The Ritz-Carlton and really wanting to do the right thing—I love that about the culture. I love that there is a mutuality of respect between our Ladies and Gentlemen and our guests and that everyone, regardless of position or title, is treated with the same level of respect, which I think is pretty rare in the luxury space.
RCLC: How does The Ritz-Carlton culture impact your work?
Ms. Holladay: Our role in marketing is to determine the best ways to inform the consumer about our brand. In other words, how do we represent our brand beliefs to the public? We did a great job of that in the Art of the Craft video series, pulling back the curtain and showing consumers how our Ladies and Gentlemen provide genuine care and comfort to our guests.
Another example is the Let Us Stay with You brand platform. This is a great example of marketing reinforcing culture. If you think about what most hotel companies do, it’s focused on the hotel—come stay with us. It’s all about us. Our point of view is: what do we do to stay with you? I think that shift and the focus on the guest really go back to the culture of the company.
RCLC: Have you had opportunities to interact with our guests or anyone else we consider a customer?
Ms. Holladay: We have advisory boards for different business leaders who book business with us—such as technology group, meeting incentives, or top travel agents. I participate in these meetings and share brand initiative work and gather feedback to help us make decisions based on our guests’ point of view.
On a more personal level, when friends and family learn you work for The Ritz-Carlton, everyone says, “Oh I’m going to stay at Cancun. I’m going to Central Park! I’m so excited! What can you tell me?” I just had an email from a friend who stayed in Boston last weekend. He’s from Italy, and he’s never been to Boston and was excited about staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common. Before his arrival, I wrote our guest relations manager at the hotel and shared that his birthday had just happened and shared some of his favorite preferences so that our hotel could have treats in the room upon his arrival to wish him a Belated Happy Birthday. By sharing guest preferences, I can help our hotels deliver that experience. I would say that’s been my biggest connection—one-on-one with guests who stay with us.
When I’m on property, I tend to be more of a quiet listener and observer of guests so that I can learn and always try to improve whatever experience they’re having.
RCLC: Can you share a little about how The Ritz-Carlton conducts market research?
Ms. Holladay: Our objective with every project is to ensure that our messages are globally relevant and represent a luxury brand. We typically talk to consumers in Asia, the Middle East, North America, Europe and other specifics markets depending on the project. It is pretty exciting to have the opportunity to talk to consumers around the world about whether our plans are appropriate. It’s also a great opportunity for consumers to look at real-time work that’s happening in a brand and have an impact.
RCLC: Excellent and very on point with our Service Value, “I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.” How do you ensure that “modern luxury” is conveyed across different cultures where that might mean different things?
Ms. Holladay: That is something we work on every day. How we bring a campaign to life in those different marketplaces could vary to ensure that it’s relevant to that global audience. For example, we tested “Let Us Stay with You” to make sure it was relevant for global markets. When you think of the power of memories and the memory-making business, that concept is relevant and can work everywhere we need it to work.
But then we can pull through that message in a global marketplace by selecting culturally appropriate images. The global campaign has the same message, but it may look different in China, the UK, the U.S. and the Middle East. Images are one way we can ensure a global campaign is relevant for all our marketplaces.
RCLC: The Ritz-Carlton has a reputation for employee retention. Does brand contribute to employee engagement?
Ms. Holladay: When I think about employee retention at The Ritz-Carlton, I do think brand plays a role. You want to work for a brand you’re proud of—a brand that has a great reputation. I think that brings people to the brand, and it keeps people for a certain amount of time. But it is everything behind the brand—the Employee Promise, our Credo, the Motto, and our Service Values—that really drives employee retention.
I appreciate that the Employee Promise is on the Credo card and carries just as much weight as our Credo. It’s also significant that our Employee Promise focuses on quality of life and work-life balance. We want people to be healthy and have a balanced life.
As I mentioned before, the Motto, “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen,” creates a mutuality of respect. It doesn’t really matter what your title is. We’re all Ladies and Gentlemen. We all have the same purpose.
Also, the fact that we have Service Values that are specific to our Ladies and Gentlemen. Of course, we all know we’re here to take care of our guests—that’s going to keep the brand growing and strong. But we also have a focus on employees learning and growing, participating in the planning of work. We see this especially in the SWOT process we do every year but also in our planning meetings. Everyone’s involved.
Finally, the empowerment our Ladies and Gentlemen are given at the property level is a tremendous asset. It’s not “Oh, I have to go find my boss, my manager, my supervisor.” We’re empowered and encouraged to take care of the situation—whether it’s fixing something that’s gone wrong or just a surprise and delight opportunity to create a WOW story for our guests. I think all of these combine to have the retention rates we enjoy. ∞
Ms. Lisa Holladay will be a member of The Ritz-Carlton Executive Panel at the Symposium: Your Journey to Service Excellence on Thursday, November 12, at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in McLean, VA.