Kumi Sato | The Innovator 25 2016
Kumi SatoThe Innovator 25:

Kumi Sato

President & CEO

Cosmo Public Relations

"I find inspiration by traveling the world and speaking with people"


In a market where many multinational firms still struggle to connect with the local culture and many indigenous firms have difficulty meeting the expectations of international clients, Sato has built Cosmo Public Relations into a market leader in part by straddling both worlds, combining local market knowledge with global standards of service and strategy. In 1986, she purchased Cosmo Public Relations—founded by her parents in 1960—and led the firm through difficult times, focusing first on helping foreign multinationals access the Japanese market and later on working with healthcare and food and nutrition companies, providing a range of services including crisis management and corporate responsibility. Today, Cosmo is a 40-person company and one of the largest independent public relations firms in the Japanese market, and Sato is one of the industry’s leaders, with a particularly strong focus on advocating for women in business.

How do you define innovation?
I feel that innovation is coming up with an idea that has not been seen or done before, and then executing on that idea.

Most innovative comms/marketing campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
There has been a lot of interest surrounding global health and the ‘End It for Good’ campaign did a great job of shedding light on this topic. In Japan, more work still needs to be done to build momentum and raise awareness for global health among stakeholders and the public. But I do feel that campaigns such as this can be successful in Japan!

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Chandler Chicco Agency is doing some really interesting work with data analytics. Another agency is Red Door in the UK who have leveraged their alliance partners extremely smartly in digital media.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
One innovative moment was when I began transitioning COSMO from an established general PR consultancy to a more specialized industry focus. While this shift was risky, I sensed that the market craved a specialized consultancy in the healthcare space. Once COSMO Healthcare was established, we were able to leverage the COSMO brand into other industries. Another example was when I created a communication framework that we apply to every project. This practice was common in management consultancies, but unheard of in the communications industry at the time.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?

More innovative then other marketing discipline.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Influencer relations.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

Who is your mentor and why?

My mentor is my mother – she is extremely creative and always developing new ideas. She has also been very active in identifying interesting global ideas and localizing them for Japan.

How do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration by traveling the world and speaking with people. I have gained tremendous insight by speaking to key leaders and learning about their industries and business practices.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?

My advice is to talk to people who you consider as ‘big thinkers’. It is also helpful to read about new innovations, go beyond your comfort zone, and ask questions.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?

I particularly like New York City. The city is great at attracting creative people and creative ideas.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
My favorite time of day is in the evening. That is when I have time to reflect and organize my thoughts.

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