Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff Johannesburg
- 67 Jan Smuts Avenue P.O. Box 2700, Johannesburg, Saxonwold 2132, South Africa
Public Relations Manager
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2018
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Tsogo Sun, Dubai; Madame Zingara, Cape Town; Como Group, London
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Diploma in International Hotel Management, Varsity College, Cape Town
- English, some Afrikaans
There was excitement waiting to greet Natalie Harrison in her role as Public Relations Manager at Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff Johannesburg – and she was excited to be welcomed by it. Perhaps more than anything else, Harrison immediately recognised the company’s embrace of social media and the focus and effort that goes into maintaining its positive online presence. “I saw right away how Four Seasons is always looking for new trends and puts energy into staying up to the moment on social media. Instagram is its calling card.”
Harrison has a lot to work with in publicising the Four Seasons experience in Johannesburg, shaping the Hotel’s various luxuries, services and locally inspired programming into captivating content and imagery to keep the media informed and guests and visitors intrigued.
For instance, just as Harrison assumed her role in late spring 2018, the Hotel’s nature-inspired Spa was launching a new Health Yourself menu featuring dishes created from sustainable ingredients and offering healthy choices – such as detox bowls and a range of gluten-free selections – targeted toward specific dietary needs. The new menu was rolled out on Global Wellness Day in early June, and Harrison played a part in securing an appearance by a “very prolific local yoga instructor” to heighten the launch.
“We had a whole yoga station set up in our rose garden with samples for guests to get a taste of the menu.” How did it go? Quite well. “We had just under 100 participants, plus a separate program for media to try the menu and do yoga with the instructor on their own.”
A main focus for Harrison is spreading word on Hotel programming that is targeted to locals from Johannesburg and South Africa beyond. “We’re definitely trying to show that we’re really something special compared with other properties here,” she explains, noting in particular a new arts program created with local arts conservancy that features performances and exhibitions right onsite at the Hotel.
“There is so much going on in the way of culture and creativity in Johannesburg. We really want to be big on the arts scene.”
Public relations is “hard work” for Harrison, “but it’s fun.” She was initially drawn to the operations side of hospitality, working in food and beverage before opening her own neighbourhood restaurant with the owner of a Cape Town-based restaurant group that offers Cirque du Soleil-inspired dinner theatre. “I didn’t have enough money to hire an external firm, so I did all of the marking and PR myself. I found it very fun.”
Then, while still in her mid-20s, she sold her car and relocated to Dubai with a friend. Within two weekends, both had found jobs: Harrison’s was overseeing PR and marketing for a local hotel group.
“I was thrown into the deep end,” she remembers, with a laugh. “I’d never studied for the role. I was in a different country. I didn’t know the media.” But she had a natural talent. “I’m a good talker. I ended up going to a lot of networking events and restaurant openings, and pretty soon I got the hang of it.”
When not busy at the Hotel – and she’s pretty much always busy when she’s at the Hotel – Harrison enjoys chilling out at home in Johannesburg with her rescue-shelter dog Chloe – “my child with four legs” – and cooking for herself and for friends.
“There’s really nothing I like better when I get home than to relax with a glass of wine and watch MasterChef on TV,” she says. “I think I missed my calling: I’d have been a great judge on the show.”