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Industry legend Dorothy Dowling on the importance of personal branding
By Elaine Simon

Red Roof’s annual SHE Leads Forum, which is set this year for Sept. 28-29 in Dallas, is designed to support, help and elevate, as well as inspire, connect and educate. It’s a kickoff for a yearlong infusion of inspiration for women, primarily in the hospitality industry, that facilitates sharing professional experiences and provides collaborative learning opportunities to continue to foster change in the industry.


This year’s keynote speaker, industry legend Dorothy Dowling, will do exactly that, sharing details about her career, the importance of personal branding and keys to success in business.


Dowling is the founder of Introspect Strategic Advisor Services, which specializes in supporting global hospitality industry clients with go-to-market strategies for growth, revenue and profitability. With over 40 years of experience in leadership roles, including 18 years as chief marketing officer of Best Western, she has directed marketing, loyalty, digital transformation, advertising, public relations, consumer relations, distribution and global sales. 


Dowling's expertise extends beyond the hospitality industry. She serves as a board member and advisor for organizations such as DEI Advisors, HSMAI, Stay Boutique, Commit Advertising Agency, Wrkspot and WINiT by GBTA.


A sought-after speaker and panelist, Dowling is known for her ability to connect industry trends with strategic planning and day-to-day commercial activities. Her contributions have been acknowledged with a number of lifetime achievement awards.


In this interview, Dowling shares why a personal brand is important, how to go about building one and what’s next for her in her extraordinary career.


Is a personal brand something everyone already has or is it something that has to be created?

“Everyone has a personal brand, but it can be intentionally developed and refined. A personal mission statement helps define what you stand for and serves as a benchmark for decision-making and alignment with your brand.”


Did you set out to create/develop a personal brand or did it just happen? When did you realize that you had a recognizable one?

“Personal branding can evolve naturally but benefits from intentionality and planning. Relationships and co-innovation with peers and business partners contribute to your brand. Feedback from mentors and peers can help you recognize your brand’s strengths and areas for improvement.”


What are the benefits of having a developed personal brand? Are there any drawbacks?

“I always recommend to others to use your political capital wisely. You have built a brand and are valued for what you stand for—never give folks a reason to doubt you or doubt your authenticity. Benefits include enhanced credibility, opportunities and influence. On drawbacks—my personal belief is never give folks a reason to doubt you or your authenticity.”


Is it something that people need to continually work on advancing or can it happen organically?

“I firmly believe in intentionality—having a plan, working a plan and reworking a plan are the hallmarks of driving successful outcomes.”


You are a member of a number of boards, have won numerous awards and been a speaker at countless events – how do those elements help your career as well as your brand?

“Strong communication skills are crucial for effective executive function. They enable you to convey messages thoughtfully and compellingly, which influence decision making and relationships positively. Most of the awards that I have been recognized with have come through my volunteer service to the industry. I believe we all need to be part of our industry community and help our industry with thought leadership, project involvement and being present to contribute our voice when needed.”


The past few years have been particularly busy for you – what’s next for on your agenda?

“In my third act—I am focused on:

1. Supporting intentional leaders with their career and commercial growth goals

2. Helping companies with their commercial success and business development goals

3. Supporting boards in an advisory capacity with strategic growth and implementation planning.”


What are your goals?

“Supporting others with their commercial and career success—I want to be the wind beneath others’ wings.”


Why are you participating in the SHE Leads Forum?

“I have and always will be a voice and advocate for advancing women leaders particularly in the hospitality space. This event lines up perfectly with my third-act career intentions 😊.”


What are you hoping to get out of it personally?

“I always enjoy being in the room with other great women—the learning, the inspiration and the energy that comes from sessions like these is contagious.”


What are you hoping that attendees get out of your presentation and from the event as a whole?

“I hope my journey will inspire others to take on challenges in their careers and businesses.”


Why are women-focused events like this so important for women in the hotel industry?

“Women working together are a powerful force. Helping women in their individual career development is an important element in supporting gender parity in our industry.”


How can the industry overall do better in terms of women hoteliers?

“We need to remain focused on both individual leadership support and investment in women-led businesses and also work with companies to address some of the systemic barriers that are holding women back.”


Visit for more information about Red Roof’s SHE Leads Forum and for tools to help you manage your business, rise in the ranks and find the confidence to become a successful business leader.

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