🌮 C-Suite Conversations: Meet Jerilan Greene
Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, Yum! Brands, Inc. and Chairman and CEO, Yum! Foundation
Jerilan Greene is the Global Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer of Yum! Brands, Inc. and Chairman and CEO of the Yum! Foundation. She leads the company’s global reputation-building and oversees global communications, government affairs and the company’s citizenship and sustainability strategies. Jerilan chairs Yum!’s Recipe for Good council for environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy and issues, and was the lead architect for the company’s social purpose initiative: Unlocking Opportunity to Fight Inequality, which is designed to serve frontline restaurant teams and communities through equity and inclusion, education and entrepreneurship.
Greene joined Yum! in 2011 as a Vice President, Communications. Prior to Yum! Brands, she was Executive Vice President at global communications marketing firm Edelman. She has also held leadership positions at Deloitte, Burson-Marsteller and Willis Towers Watson. A member of the Fast Company Impact Council and the Arthur W. Page Society, Greene is a two-time graduate of Northwestern University with a Master’s in Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management and a Bachelor of Science from the School of Communication.
What sparked your professional path into Communications?
I didn't embark onto a communications career so much as I followed my interests and strengths. Listening, problem-solving and writing were always central to what I enjoyed doing from primary school to college. One of my first jobs was in human capital consulting where we advised companies on how to engage, attract, retain and inspire employees. In early roles like this and in PR, I learned the science and art of strategic communications relevant for any audience.
What are you particularly proud to have accomplished over the years?
My most proud moments involve developing talent on our team. I've been fortunate to lead a team that has every specialist you would possibly want on a team to tell great stories, and we work together like a family and a sports team. We have accomplished a lot together in the last 10 years.
On the internal side, we created and implemented a global channel, newsroom and content strategy that lasts today and powers our culture. It's integrated with external news about our brands, and has the best of video, podcasting, leadership communications and social content.
On a macro level, I'm proud to have led the strategic articulation of our business strategy at pivotal moments, architected our corporate purpose and accelerated our progress on our citizenship and sustainability journey. Teamwork and clear communications are central to all this.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Communications?
First, deep listening—the ability to hear and understand a diversity of viewpoints, including what is expressed and not expressed. Second, clarity-creating—it's important to be able to write clearly and spur conversations that create the kind of strategic or organizational clarity that is needed to move people, action and stories.
Third, strategic action-driving—that means taking steps today that keep the long-term strategy or goal in clear view. Is what you're doing today going to impact the bigger picture in the future? If not, time to revisit priorities.
Last, generating shared interests. Nothing gets done without teamwork and relationships. It's very important to understand the motivations and interests of the groups you're trying to engage or reach internally or externally. From there, you must work to find the sweet spot of shared interests that allow you or your organization to tackle big issues.
In your role, how do you partner with Internal/Employee Communications?
Employee communications are a central part of our integrated team across global communications, government affairs and sustainability. We take an enterprise view of employee communications, working across all functions, and facilitate connectivity and conversations across the business and brands. The team focuses on healthy channels, content curation, leadership communications, culture moments, integration with external communications and analytics to improve reach and engagement.
How do you continue learning about the field of Communications?
Start by becoming an avid listener and learner. These days, there are so many sources to advance your learning, from books to podcasts to media and social content. Create your own learning strategy for what you want to accomplish and refresh it regularly.
Second, learn the economics of the business, and the focus and challenges of functions and businesses adjacent to your job. It'll make you a better communicator. Third, continually cultivate your network internally and externally—it will always help you learn and uncover opportunities and insights you would never expect. Lastly, make a habit of asking where you can be of service to help your team, manager or the business, and ask for constructive feedback regularly.