Welcome to this instalment in our Day In The Life series, an initiative of the Marketing Institute in which we've asked some of our Members to share what it is like to be in their shoes.
They've agreed to tell us about their role, key career moves, daily challenges and aspirations so that other members can benefit from these great marketers' experience.
Today, we are speaking with Dorothy MacCann, Brand Director at The Merrion Hotel.
The Marketing Institute: What does a Brand Director do?
Dorothy MacCann: The Brand Director at the Merrion is really concerned with generating revenue and creating demand for our services. With the rise of social media and the 'Voice of the Guest' there is no room for silos... the guest experience and the sales and marketing function are now intrinsically linked. The better the guest experience the more demand for our services.
My role supports the management team in ensuring the guest experience at the Merrion is unique and at the forefront of our minds while at the same time working with the sales and marketing team to make sure the right tactics are employed to sell and elevate the brand.
There is really no one area of the hotel that does not have the capacity to impact negatively or positively on the Merrion brand. From the flowers in the front hall to the quality of a massage in the spa to the threadcount in the linen... my role concerns itself with all touchpoints for the guest.
MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
Dorothy: I spent the first ten years of my career in hotel operations . I trained in hotel management in the Berkeley Court (then part of the Doyle Collection) and once finished took up an intern position in the New York sales office of Ryan Hotels. I had a great mentor in the early days of my career in Michael Governey (a renowned hotelier of the 80's and 90's) and he brought me back to work in an events role in the Berkeley Court. After further stints in the USA with both Regency Inns and the Doyle Collection in Washington DC, I returned to a sales role in the Doyle Collection. Bernie Gallagher gave me my first break into marketing and was great to work with, she gave me a lot of responsibility and scope as Marketing Manager for the group at a young age and I learned a lot on the job.
When my husband's job took us to live in Kerry for a period of time I set up my own consultancy. This gave me great flexibility when our children were young and allowed me work with a diverse portfolio of clients. Through one longstanding client (Opera Ireland-the largest arts organisation in the country at the time) I got invaluable experience in the Arts World. We collaborate a lot with artists and designers at the Merrion and understanding and appreciating how they work has been vital.
Continual upskilling has been important too . Completing a Masters Degree in Hospitality Management gave me a more strategic outlook and continual learning in the area of Digital Marketing has been essential.
The Merrion has been a client for over 20 years and I have worked with them since preopening. I finally came on board in my present role in 2012 as the account became more demanding.
MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Dorothy: Staying ahead of our competitors. At present we are number 1 on all KPI's within our competitive set. Maintaining this lead requires an excellent guest experience, creative marketing and an effective sales team.
Finding the right sales people can be a challenge but we are lucky at the moment to have young, driven and passionate people across our sales, reservations and events teams. We recently appointed a Director of Sales who has just returned to Ireland having worked in the U.S for five years, and our Director of Events is a returnee from London. In the past we have always developed from within and maintaining a pipeline of talent can be challenging in the current market.
Another big challenge at present is the management of our customer data... We are currently looking at developing a more effective CRM system that will bring us closer to our end clients in order to recognise and serve them more effectively.
MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Dorothy: A flair for the hospitality industry, attention to detail, persuasive powers, be a thinker and a doer and maintain a good sense of humour!
MII: Describe a typical working day.
Dorothy: My working day is taken up primarily with meetings. I interact daily with our Marketing Manager, our Director of Sales, our Revenue Manager and members of the Senior Management team.
Revenue Strategy is key and first thing in the morning I would review the Daily Revenue Report. You can see very quickly where our efforts are required. It could be Rooms, Food and Beverage, The Spa or Events... If revenue is off budget in any one area we need to be on to it.
Most of our marketing budget goes into PR rather than advertising and we retain PR companies in the UK, USA and Ireland. Liaising with them and finding stories within the hotel and destination that delight and inform while at the same time elevate the brand is constant.
Ensuring our social media is on brand as well as reviewing our customer feedback internally and on review sites is critical to stay focused on clients likes and dislikes.
Over 20% of our business comes direct through our website so web content/design as well as analytics is key.
As an independent hotel a lot of my time has to go into reading and research to ensure we keep ahead of any new industry trends.
At the moment , I am working on a daily basis with the General Manager and the design team on the concept and delivery of our new restaurant and spa. I am married to the GM so meetings tend to run late into the evening. It’s a 24 hour business... your day never really ends!
MII: What do you love most about your role?
Dorothy: I love the international aspect of the hospitality industry, the fact that we are part of a network of over 450 top hotels in the world through our association with Leading Hotels of the World (LHW).
On the home front I love the fact that we are part of Team Ireland when it comes to promoting the hotel and its destination and I love that I get to work with a diverse group of people such as great chefs, art historians, designers and winemakers when we collaborate to create stories and events.
I Love working with people who are at the top of their game. The senior management team at the Merrion are all passionate and talented individuals who get the big picture and understand the (often intangible) benefits of having a respected brand.
MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
Dorothy: At the moment I am not planning much past the next 18 months when we will open and launch the new restaurant and spa.
In the early days of my career I used to be very focused on a five year plan. Experience has taught me, if you do your present job well and are open to change, opportunities will present themselves.
MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
Dorothy: In the world of business I am inspired by people who are in business for the long term and appreciate the importance of relationships, people who are not driven by short term profit, who build organisations of real value on both the economic and cultural front. I have to say the owners of the Merrion are in this category.
In the not for profit sector I had the pleasure of working with Minister Katherine Zappone the founder of An Cosan over many years and I am a great admirer of her and her partner Dr Ann Louise Gilligan ...they walk the talk and are great visionaries.