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Women Bisnow
May 27, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business


When Kathleen Matthews, 25-year veteran anchor for ABC News 7 (WJLA-TV), decided it was time for a new career, her daughter suggested she was having a mid-life crisis, and her son asked, “Why would anyone give up TV?” But her oldest son and the family’s other TV personality—husband and Hardball host Chris Matthews—cheered her on. “I thought I had a second career in me but I wasn’t sure what it was,” says Kathleen. A chance conversation at the French Embassy with the outgoing head of Marriott’s communications department took care of that. After a meeting with Bill Marriott, Matthews became Marriott International’s EVP for Global Communications and Public Affairs in 2006.


Showing off her new Smart Car, Matthews started her career writing and producing for television. Chris was urging her on back then, too. “He said, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to be on TV if you’re in TV? Then you have control over the whole process.’” Matthews resisted but began doing freelance spots. “I couldn’t even watch myself. I didn’t wear makeup and had straight flat hair. I asked how I was doing and was told to try some lipstick.”


Marriott has come a long way since Bill Marriott Sr. and wife Alice headed from Utah to DC to start a root beer stand in 1927. Now entirely focused on lodging, Marriott was celebrating its 80th anniversary when Matthews began with a plan to promote the company’s legacy while looking to the future. “I thought, let’s break the mold. How about getting Bill Marriott to start a blog? He visits 200-300 hotels a year engaging people in a personal way. It seemed like the perfect way to talk about the legacy and the innovation.” Marriott in the Kitchen, a blog by executive chef Brad Nelson, has also launched on Matthews’s watch, as has the Marriott Network on YouTube.


Matthews and Ed Begley, environmental activist and actor, discussing Marriott’s green initiatives.


Marriott, conscientious about energy since the last gas crisis, has set an initial target of a 25% reduction in energy usage. “We just announced that we’ll offer guests a chance to match Marriott’s contribution to save acres in the Brazilian rain forest by buying carbon offsets.” Marriott itself has pledged $2 million to the effort over three years. “Without a beautiful planet ,no one will visit our hotels,” Kathleen says.


She’s crossed over to the other side . . . of the camera, that is. Matthews tells us that the Fortune 500 company will soon be supplying green products like recycled Bic pens, recyclable carpets and compostable key cards.


When first approached to work for the hospitality giant, Matthew’s said, “I don’t know anything about business.” Now heading PR for 19 brands, overseeing corporate communications, government affairs, social responsibility and community engagement, she has proven herself wrong. “I loved my years at Channel 7, I get nostalgic yet I’m having the time of my life. I feel like my world is so much bigger and that my learning curve has accelerated again. I wake up every morning scared that I won’t be prepared, and fear is a great motivator.”

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