Stephanie Cross



The University of Arizona - Retailing and Consumer Sciences

Social media has become such an ubiquitous part of life, it's easy to forget how relatively new it is. Case in point: when Stephanie Cross started her marketing career, there was no such thing as "social media marketing strategy." Yet today, she's managing the online marketing strategy for a designed set of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, leading digital initiatives for hotel hotspots like the St. Regis Monarch Beach, The St. Regis Aspen Resort, W Los Angeles – Westwood and more.

In a job that can be hard to turn off, Stephanie takes great care to find balance. When she's at work, she works. At home, though, her focus is on her family. iPhones go off at dinner. Stephanie and her husband take "marital PTO days." And she aims to be present in the moment. Her trick? "Love what you do and you’ll always find the time to do it," she says.

Love what you do and you’ll always find the time to do it.

You have an incredible job, but we’re curious, what came first in your career – social media or working in the hospitality industry?

When I started as a Regional Marketing Manager for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2008, there was no such thing as a “social media marketing strategy.” Traditional media was still largely part of your media buys, and your online marketing strategy consisted of email marketing, digital advertising on travel endemic sites, SEO, PPC and optimized hotel websites. We were just scratching the surface of what mobile and social media meant for our business.

What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?

I manage the online marketing strategy for a designated set of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in the West Region, which means I execute digital initiatives for hotels such as The St. Regis Monarch Beach, The St. Regis Aspen Resort, W Scottsdale, W Los Angeles – Westwood, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills and more. I also manage a team of two managers and one coordinator.

Here comes the fun part: everything I do has a dollar value associated with it. In a nutshell, I can get as creative as I want, but my job is to drive revenue to my properties. I track everything that I do to ensure it's successful and driving consumer demand. In 2012, by executing lucrative marketing campaigns and strategies, I achieved more than $21 million annual financial transient and group revenue gains with an approximate $750,000 annual marketing budget. Of course, marketing these hotels means really understanding their competitive landscape, their competitive advantages, knowing the brand story and knowing who their customer is. I also need to be privy to technological trends and social innovations while effectively communicating to my hotels’ Executive Committee and Ownership Groups. Good communication and strong marketing intellect is the key.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is traveling to these amazing properties. From W San Francisco to The St. Regis New York and The Westin Maui, I strongly believe Starwood has the best products and the best brands in the industry.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

Work doesn’t keep me up at night. It used to, but not anymore. I have two children at home and a loving husband who deserve my attention just as much as my job does. When I’m clocked into work, I give it 150 percent. But when I’m at home, and off the clock, my family gets my full attention.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you – especially as a new mom? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I'm always trying to find “balance” between work and my personal life. Just when I think I have it all figured out, the rules change: One of my kids get sick, my husband’s boss schedules a 7 a.m. meeting or I have a mandatory conference 1,050 miles away. It’s not easy, but I have a strong partner in crime and together, we figure it out.

One no-fail tactic that my husband and I have implemented is “marital PTO time.” What we do is take one vacation or PTO day per quarter where we keep the kids in school and spend it together. Sure, it may fall on a random Tuesday, but that’s the best part. We also turn off our iPhones at dinner. Being present without distraction is something we're working on.

Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I can't believe I have this job?" What was it?

Yes. I was sitting at a long conference table at one of my luxury resorts, alongside the hotels’ Executive Team. The Executives were waiting for me to present the value of our Marketing Program and upcoming marketing initiatives that would profit their business. As I looked around the room, I couldn’t help but notice the impeccable décor, the smell of fresh flowers and the Pacific Ocean breeze. Right then, I took a deep breath and began to speak. As I left that meeting, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I have this job.”

What are some of the rules you live by?

As a woman in business, there are three things to remember in order to go far:

1 / Think before you speak.

2 / Practice before you present.

3 / Dress for the occasion.

What qualities does one need to possess to be successful in your line of work?

See above. Next, come to the table with ideas and a strong passion for what you are doing. Without passion for travel, marketing, people and education, you won’t go far.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?

Be patient. When I was younger, I jumped from job to job a lot. There's something to be said about investing in a company for more than just a year. When you find a company that you truly believe in, stay a while. Stick it out through the hard times and I think you’ll be surprised at the outcome. Loyalty swings both ways.

How do you find time to do it all?

I get that question a lot. “How do you find time to write a blog, run a household, raise two kids, work full-time, etc.” It’s simple, really. When you want to do something, you find time to do it.

I love what I do. I feel like I am a better mother and wife because of my passion for work. By no means do I “do it all” but I do my fair share and I still manage to find time for a glass of wine at the end of a work week with my husband. Love what you do and you’ll always find the time to do it.