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
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
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 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
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
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
PR and ad manager, Portman Inter-Continental
Director of press and PR - UK, Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts
Director of comms - EMEA, Bass Hotels and Resorts
V-P media relations, Six Continents