Mike Fernandez | Influence 100
Charting the future of public relations
mike-fernandez

Mike Fernandez

Corporate vice president, corporate affairs
Cargill

Before joining Cargill, where he currently serves as corporate vice president, corporate affairs—a role he will have vacated by the time this survey is published—Mike Fernandez previously held senior corporate communications positions at companies in a wide variety of industries, from insurance (State Farm Mutual) to food (ConAgra) to telecommunication (US West). In each case, he was brought on board to help the company deal with specific threats, ranging from legal and regulatory challenges to natural disasters.

At Cargill, the challenge was less obvious, but no less critical. As a privately held company, Cargill had not always been subject to the same level of scrutiny as its publicly-traded peers. But with 142,000 employees in 67 countries, and a major role in the world’s food supply, it was clear that the company needed to embrace increased transparency rather than resisting it.

Says Cargill executive chairman Greg Page, “We knew that in a world where you can hide nothing, you better have nothing to hide and Mike has provided great leadership and guidance on how we can, and must be more transparent with all the stakeholders that are important to us.  We needed to be more comfortable engaging around issues that affect us, organizations that may differ with us and through channels that we have traditionally avoided.”

Please share a notable career highlight. 
Willingness to not truly engage with stakeholders, but critics as well

What is the most rewarding/challenging aspect about a career in communications/marketing?
The ability to make a difference in the world. As Harold Burson once said, "It is not communoications unless it purposefully alters or sustains a perception, behavior or business result."

What skills/experience will the CCO of the future need that may not be required today?
CCOs need to set aside the notion that they are in the business of communications. It needs to be broader than that. It needs to be about being a problem solver and relationship. In short, being business people first.

What skill/experience is required of today's CCO that might not be as relevant in the future?
Just tracking social media and online activity. To win in the 21st century you need to engage.

Who or what inspires you to be your best? 
My wife, Pat.

What is on your must-read/view/listen to list? 
General Stanley McChrystals Team of Teams...this book is about teams but primarily about how we need to communicate differently beyond org charts and silos

Most interesting place you've traveled to?
This past year it has to be Havana, Cuba. That's where my grandfather was from and I marvel at its natural beauty and its opportunity for the future.