MINNEAPOLIS: General Mills has restructured its corporate communications function into three teams to better support internal comms and drive a stronger cadence of external storytelling.
The new groups are an internal and employee experience team; the corporate and brand storytelling team; and an operations team. All three report to global chief communications officer Jano Cabrera.
Previously, one team handled internal comms.
“Communications always best serves a company if it is fit for purpose,” said Cabrera. “We are making changes in corporate comms at General Mills to better serve our business transformation and the realities of today. That means we are strengthening our internal comms muscles and taking a more concerted approach to our corporate reputation storytelling.”
General Mills is looking for a senior director to lead the internal and employee experience team. It combines what was previously an internal team, focused on functions such as how legal and corporate comms were communicating, and a business segment comms team that focused on how business units talked to employees.
Combining them places a greater emphasis not just on informing employees, but engaging them, said Cabrera.
“The type of creative work that you would typically reserve for external engagement, such as the surprise and delight elements, we are increasingly using more internally,” Cabrera explained.
Lisa Bormann was previously General Mills’ director of global internal comms. The business segment comms team previously reported to corporate communications, but were standalone communicators that worked directly with the segments, Cabrera said.
The corporate and brand storytelling team combines what was previously external and content channels into one team “with a clear focus on a cadence of storytelling,” Cabrera said.
Leading the corporate and brand storytelling team is Erica Sarakaitis, who is set to join General Mills on February 22 as senior director of corporate reputation and brand storytelling. She will replace Rob Litt, who joined PetSmart as comms head on February 1. Sarakaitis, who reports to Cabrera, had worked at Edelman since 2005, most recently as EVP.
Sarakaitis will oversee a team of 15. She is in charge of corporate reputation, media relations and content channels. Part of her responsibilities is overseeing agencies Golin and Select.
“I am very excited that Erica is joining,” said Cabrera. “She comes with knowledge about the CPG industry and a passion for brand building.”
Sarakaitis said that she has “dedicated the better part of my career to the food and beverage industry, working with Kellogg’s and Conagra Brands.”
“General Mills has always represented best in class, they were the ones to beat,” she said. “So to be joining them now during this time of growth and consumer-first changes is really a tremendous opportunity.”
The operations team, consisting of three staffers, will be led by corporate comms operations manager Britta Dihel. Previously, she managed General Mills’ content and channels.
“They make sure the trains are running on time; I compare [Dihel] to tower control,” said Cabrera. “When you have so much happening at once – big internal meetings, virtual meetings, external announcements about new products and promotions, resources we are using - she helps pace those things so that we are ensuring we have a cadence as we go.”
“The changes come after a year of being in place, getting to know the team, its strengths and the needs of the business,” said Cabrera.
In addition to the hires and restructuring, Cabrera has focused on “aggressively promoting” from within. In a little over a year, 10 individuals or roles were promoted within corporate communications, he said.
The in-house restructuring follows a reworking of the company’s agency relationships. Last year, General Mills brought on Golin and Select in a restructuring of its agency roster. Ketchum was the incumbent agency. Golin is helping General Mills communicate externally while Select works on internal storytelling.
Cabrera previously worked at McDonald’s as SVP of U.S. communications, global media and PR, a role in which he worked closely with Golin.
In its fiscal Q2, which ended in November, General Mills’ organic net sales increased 7% to $4.7 billion. Operating profit increased 13% to $917 million.