Carol Cone | The Innovator 25 North America 2019

Carol Cone

Chief Executive Officer

On Purpose
New York

“Stretch so far beyond what is doable so that you sweat the idea. Then understand you get nine no’s before you get a yes.”

Long before mission-driven work became mainstream, there was Carol Cone. Her first effort dates back to the early 1980s, when she made Rockport shoes the center of the walking for exercise movement. In the decades since, Cone has stayed true to her own purpose: educating, inspiring and accelerating social purpose programs and impacts for organizations and nonprofits worldwide. Her signature work includes the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, Reebok Human Rights Awards, American Heart Go Red for Women, American Lung Association Lung Force, PNC Grow Up Great, Microsoft YouthSpark, The Vaseline Healing Project and My Special Aflac Duck — and she doesn’t let up. Cone adamantly believes that, particularly today, companies and brands need to think beyond the bottom line, and continues to focusing on furthering clients’ business and societal goals through breakthrough initiatives with lasting impact. Cone’s signature programs have raised more than $3b for an array of social causes.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Continue to earn its seat at the organizational strategy table; integrating with “C” suite executives with an ability to impact the business and the organization’s engagement with society.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
About the same as other marketing disciplines

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Content creation

How do you define innovation?
Disruptive ideas that emanate from deep insights and have an ability to create new markets, inspire loyalty, increase sales and get a  marketplace response: “I wish I had done that!”

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
My Special Aflac Duck; Wendy’s Fortnight

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Creating the walking movement for Rockport that grew the company five times over four years and created $1 billion category at retail

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Ability to create magic on small budgets

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Get inspired by things that I can’t really do but are fun to watch like the great British Baking Show or watching Disney movies.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Stretch so far beyond what is doable so that you sweat the idea. Then understand you get nine no’s before you get a yes.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
Moonshot ideas  to address climate change and children’s diseases; How to massively scale well strategized and inspiring organizational and brand purpose.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris