Mary Lynn Carver | Influence 100

Mary Lynn Carver

General Mills
United States

Over the last 12 months, Mary Lynn Carver helped navigate the world’s largest flour recall and a campaign to remind consumers — despite the popularity of cookie dough — that eating raw flour and eggs can be harmful. She’s also been at the helm as General Mills has brought in a new CEO Jeff Harmening in June who has a particular focus on modernizing the multibillion-dollar company that is now 150 years old. 

Since 2015, Carver has been CCO and global VP of corporate communications where she is responsible for communications strategy, corporate brand, employee and executive communications, as well as product brand PR and crisis communications. Carver has served in a variety of executive communications and public affairs positions for global companies and non-profit organizations, and spent her early career taking a tech start-up public. 

Just prior to joining General Mills, Carver spent six years in non-profit health care and medical research organizations including serving as SVP of communications and public affairs for the University of Maryland Medical System, a $3+ billion hospital system with unique public-private partnerships, and as SVP of communications and PR at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. 

Prior to her non-profit work, she held a variety of public affairs and global corporate communications roles in the U.S. and in London with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. 

Can you share a moment in your career that you recognized PR's direct impact on business performance?
Many of the most impactful moments are situations that never see the light of day - where issues were prevented or avoided before they had a chance to occur. I have also found the role of communications most impactful when helping to lead change when companies are at key inflection points (new CEO, turnaround situations, mergers etc.).

What are the industry's biggest challenges and opportunities? 
A perennial challenge of the industry is focusing too much on org charts, reporting lines, decision rights and budget size versus strategic influence, creative ideas, and impact.

How do you handle the unexpected?
Build a great team that works as a unit, and can back each other up. Always try to think three steps ahead.

How do you relax?
Making time for things I love - family, pets, music, flowers, long hot baths, great books.

Book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
Don't they all - you just have to know what to look for!

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
A lounge singer or own a flower store.