Hilton reorganizes comms teams, hires Disney's Craig Dezern as head of brand comms

The hotel giant is consolidating its teams to reflect the ambitions of a global brand that wants to resonate in local markets.

MCLEAN, VA: Hilton has hired Craig Dezern as head of brand communications, a newly created team, as the hotel giant consolidates comms teams across its portfolio.

The company is combining its brand group and Hilton Honors PR unit into its brand comms team, encompassing corporate, internal, and brand communications, it said in a statement.

"We at Hilton have been on a journey for quite some time to talk about how we should be adapting all comms assets worldwide to both meet the rising challenges of the comms landscape externally, but also to leverage all the great talent we have across the organization," said Katie Beirne Fallon, EVP of corporate affairs.

The comms staffers’ first priority will be to serve their individual brands, but the consolidation will allow the company to better leverage their talent to promote the enterprise brand, she added.

"To date, we’ve had comms talent reporting to teams strategizing for individual brands or individual products," she added. "Instead of creating a team dedicated to the enterprise brand, we’re using our existing assets and leadership in [Dezern] to tell our enterprise brand story through content creation, authentic storytelling, and leveraging our rich physical assets across the world."

Beirne Fallon described the integration as a response to the rapidly changing communications environment, Hilton’s scale and scope, and a need to stay relevant in local conversations.

"While we tried to do that organically to date – successfully, I might add – it’s a lot easier and more efficient for us to work from the same team and same playbook," she said.

Dezern will also serve as a partner to Nigel Glennie, VP of external comms, with the two units partnering on many initiatives.

Glennie added it would be "reasonable" to expect a greater emphasis on owned channels.

"For the first couple months, he will be figuring out how we can raise our game on content and digital storytelling across the portfolio and look for ways to cross-pollinate marketing campaigns for individual brands across segments, the portfolio, or in service of the enterprise brand, [among other things]," Beirne Fallon said.

Dezern will lead a team of staffers across the company’s 14 brands and Hilton Honors loyalty program, Beirne Fallon said. The corporate affairs department has about 80 staffers with plans to hire approximately 20 more. The company is also looking to bring on a director of corporate communications, reporting to Glennie.

Dezern started in his role on Monday, reporting to Beirne Fallon. Dezern spent more than 20 years at Walt Disney, most recently as VP of PR and partnership marketing, a role in which he led a team of more than 100 promoting Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He has also worked as a journalist, covering business, politics, news, and entertainment for the Orlando Sentinel, according to his LinkedIn account.

Katrina Jones, VP of regional communications for EMEA, APAC, and the Americas, has also relocated from London to McLean as part of the reorganization. She is reporting to Beirne Fallon.

"One of the things we value most is internal comms, because we have 360,000 team members," said Beirne Fallon. "She’s going to be working to evolve our strategies around team member comms, so they can work as advocates for the company."

Beirne Fallon, a former director of legislative affairs and senior adviser to President Barack Obama, was hired late last year as SVP and head of global corporate affairs, replacing former EVP of corporate affairs, Bill Margaritis. She was promoted from SVP to EVP in May.

Hilton’s corporate affairs function is made up of comms, government affairs, and social responsibility.

Hilton reported higher-than-expected profit and revenue in the second quarter, according to Reuters.

This story was updated on September 12 to correct the number of staffers in Hilton's corporate affairs department.

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