Carol Cone Leaving Agency That Bears Her Name

Carol Cone, founder of Omnicom-owned agency Cone Public Relations, is leaving her agency at the end of March.

Cone said in a phone interview with PRNewser that she will keep busy with a number of projects. “There’s no sitting on the sidelines for me,” she said.

Her agency was sold to Omnicom ten years ago, and is widely considered one of the preeminent cause marketing agencies in the country. Clients include the American Heart Association, Ben & Jerry’s, eBay, Disney, and Time Warner Cable.

Cone is working on a book, “Breakthrough Nonprofit Brands,” that will be published next September. In addition to that, she will begin consulting, while also deciding whether to “create something new from scratch, go to a niche agency or go big,” she said.

In regards to the agency, she said, “My name is on the door. My colleagues are at the agency still. So I wish them so much success while I go into new ventures.”

Read Cone’s full email to friends and staff after the jump.

Effective March 31, I will be leaving Cone, LLC, the agency I founded August 1, 1980 to pursue new interests. Why?

As many of you know, last fall I followed the Dalai Lama at a conference about the power of community. My focus was on compassion in business. Something happened there. His Holiness’ aura. His message. Following his speech I met with him. When he held my hand, looked into my eyes and smiled, I realized I had more to do. Leaving Cone, although bittersweet, will give me the flexibility to pursue new ventures related to social issues, especially in content development and global public-private partnerships.

When I founded Cone I had a dream to create a highly innovative company doing extraordinary work. Drafting my first client proposal, I had no idea of the journey or the eventual impact the agency would have. Almost 30 years later, I am deeply humbled by what has been created — the expansive programs and their impact, relationships with wonderful colleagues and clients, and thought leadership that has coalesced an industry. As the world resets to pressing economic and social realities, what began as a alternative means of linking companies and causes, called cause marketing in its early days, is now an expansive approach to global corporate citizenship. In today’s thoroughly interconnected world, a new equation for brand reputation has emerged, where organizations are judged as much by how they engage socially, as what they make and sell. This is the new normal.

I am so proud of the agency’s work over the decades. I am often asked about my favorite initiatives. They include: Rockport and Walking; the Reebok Human Rights Awards; Avon’s Breast Cancer Crusade; ConAgra Foods’ Feeding Children Better (PRWEEK’s 2001 Campaign of the Year); PNC Grow Up Great and Western Union’s Our World. Our Family (back to back CECP Global Campaigns of the Year), the American Heart Association cause movements, especially Go Red for Women and Start! Proctor & Gamble Live, Learn and Thrive and ITT Watermark. While there were so many others, these are the ones I personally touched with my hands and heart. Overall, Cone’s signature cause programs helped the firms’ clients raise more than $1.2 billion for various social causes as they contributed to forming authentic social movements.

Besides my love of brand building, Cone allowed the teacher in me to flourish. To move knowledge forward, ignite corporate support of this strategy, and guide effective collaborations, we commissioned more than two dozen research studies since 1993. The Cone/Roper Report, the industry’s first comprehensive study of consumer attitudes towards companies and causes, was so widely adopted, that I often received a conference nametag saying: Carol Cone/Roper! I am thrilled our research empowered so many individuals and organizations to convince their senior leaders at for profit and nonprofits that ‘doing good’ was good for business and society, and when done well, creates distinct competitive advantage.

In the months ahead, I will be focusing on a variety of projects. On the list is finishing my first book, Breakthrough Nonprofit Brands, along with co-authors, Jocelyne Daw, Kristian Darigan Merenda and Anne Erhard. Published by John Wiley and Sons, it is due this September. I will be developing social issues related programming for big and small screens, will counsel new clients, industry trade groups and organizations and continue speaking to audiences around the world.

Over the past 29 years, my favorite achievements, beyond client work include: the hands on learning we created for more than 500 interns (I got my start as an intern); the Habitat for Humanity home I personally funded and built alongside my colleagues to recognize them upon Cone’s sale to Omnicom; being selected as one of two US judges for the first PR Lions competition at Cannes; my speeches at Cannes to a wonderful and engaged, international audience, and Calgary, especially meeting the Dalai Lama; Making Change for Katrina, the agency’s pro bono project helping victims of the devastating Gulf hurricanes; my election to the Arthur Page Society; being recognized in PRWEEK’s first ranking of the top 25 industry leaders and my Board participation with Net Impact, the international nonprofit that inspires and educates, individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.

My deepest thanks to all who have been part of Cone, as colleagues, clients, partners, industry and personal friends. What a journey we had. My best wishes to all for continued success. And please stay in touch.

I end with this question, as I do at all my speeches: What do you stand for? Please think about it. Then act. There is so much more for us to do.