PROFILE: Dee Cayhill, Six Continents - PR calling across Six Continents for Cayhill. Dee Cayhill faces global challenges at the world's largest hospitality group

Handling 300 e-mails a day is no easy task. But Dee Cayhill has the

self-discipline needed to master the art of reading, saving and trashing

fast in what has become the everyday reality of business life. The newly

appointed V-P of media relations for Six Continents - the world's

largest hospitality group - allows herself just 30 minutes daily to

plough through her inbox.



With a ruthless and methodical approach to work, Cayhill believes her

organisational skills have been the key attributes that have allowed her

to flourish during a 20-year PR career: 'Working in a 24-hour,

seven-days-a-week global business such as hospitality means I have to be

well organised,' she says. 'I have in-trays marked urgent, mega-urgent

and super-urgent.'



Cayhill last week assumed the task of co-ordinating media relations for

the group's 3,200 hotels and 2,000 restaurants and bars at the most

testing time for the hospitality industry. The global economic downturn,

exacerbated by the atrocities in the US and the ongoing global crisis,

has created unprecedented problems for tourism. Hotels, like airlines

and the rest of the travel sector, face an uphill struggle in rebuilding

consumer confidence.



Being the focal point for PR agencies, hotel colleagues, general

managers and heads of departments, Cayhill has taken charge of overall

media activities for Six Continents across the trade, consumer,

corporate and financial PR areas. Familiar names such as Holiday Inn,

Inter-Continental Hotels and All Bar One are among the brands housed

within Six Continents.



'It's a whole new learning curve, but I am up to the challenge,' says

Cayhill, who reports to corporate affairs director Mark Rigby. 'The

travel industry has a huge challenge. My role is to work with the

counterparts in airlines, hospitality trade bodies and other hotels. I

think now is when we as communicators can put our skills to the test and

make a real difference.'



It's a PRO's dream or nightmare, whichever way you look at it - a chance

to shine and to be creative in tough conditions.



Christine Engel, Holiday Inn vice-president of operations, says Cayhill

has the dedication and energy to succeed: 'She has always been an

enthusiastic, positive and inquisitive person,' says Engel. 'Having

worked in the operational side of the business, Dee has knowledge of how

a hotel ticks, gets all departments involved in PR and knows how to sell

in a story. She is also very loyal.'



Cayhill's role was created after a decision last year by the then Bass

group to sell its brewery division and concentrate on hotels and

leisure. A condition of the sales was that Bass would cease using its

name in August this year and adopt a new corporate identity.



Six Continents was born out of the Inter-Continental loyalty programme

bearing the same name.



It's a far cry from 1982 when Cayhill took on her first job in the hotel

business after arriving in the UK from Singapore. After two years'

hands-on experience as a reception manager at the Cumberland Hotel in

London, she ventured into PR with MPR Communications.



Although the attraction of being hands-on operationally tempted her back

to the hotel business proper in 1986 as customer relations manager at

London's Portman Inter-Continental, she has no regrets about eventually

returning to PR: 'The buzz of hotels and the ability to do something

with a creative stance appealed to me. I love writing, words,

communication and hotels, so PR in this industry was the natural fit,'

she explains.



She persuaded bosses to set up a PR department at the Portman, but had

to first complete a communication, marketing and advertising course to

fulfil her ambitions.



She swiftly climbed the corporate ladder - from handling one UK

property, then six, then regional responsibilities covering media in

Europe, Middle East and Africa, before landing the global director role.

Emma Tame has taken over Cayhill's former job.



The hotel portfolio has since mushroomed and responsibilities have

multiplied, but Cayhill is not one to tear her hair out. She is

preparing for the roll-out of revised global PR plans: 'There are more

meetings and greater involvement with management in

decision-making.'



Cayhill has two conflicting immediate challenges - being proactive in

pushing stories, yet sensitive to the current situation. A further one

might be to understand the business's number-crunchers: 'I have to get

to know City editors but figures don't daunt me.' Former boss Engel

backs this up: 'Nothing will daunt Dee. It's all go with her, thinking

positive.'



A passion for travel spanning childhood and almost 20 years working in

hospitality has reaped its rewards. Though travel is in her blood,

Cayhill is now more office-based, pushing story ideas and PR strategy

and liasing with more than 100 PR managers and agencies worldwide. Six

Continents indeed.



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

PR and ad manager, Portman Inter-Continental

1991

Director of press and PR - UK, Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts

1999

Director of comms - EMEA, Bass Hotels and Resorts

2001

V-P media relations, Six Continents



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