Cone reorganizes CSR offering with focus on return

BOSTON: Cone Communications has restructured its cause marketing and corporate responsibility offerings into one CSR group that will focus on return on investment.

BOSTON: Cone Communications has restructured its cause marketing and corporate responsibility offerings into one CSR group that will focus on return on investment.

The combined group, which includes more than 100 practitioners, specializes in social impact, sustainable business practices, engagement, and communications. The agency combined these formerly standalone disciplines to spur greater collaboration on CSR programs.

As part of the reorganization, Cone has also rolled out a measurement tool for CSR campaigns called the CSR Dashboard. The framework measures return on revenue, efficiency, talent, brand, and society by examining a program's product or service, philanthropy, employee engagement, stakeholder engagement, and operations. 

Cone restructured its CSR practice because more consumers want to know about the results of CSR campaigns, said agency president Bill Fleishman. A survey conducted by the firm found 84% of respondents believe companies that make CSR commitments should be held accountable for producing and communicating the results. However, 86% said they wish companies would tell them more about the results of their CSR efforts, and 55% do not understand the impact they have when they buy a product from a company that says it's socially responsible.

“There's an expectation by consumers that it's time to take purpose to the next level. Purpose is not enough; it's the starting point,” Fleishman said. “Businesses now need to think about how they go about proving their purpose.”

At the start of every CSR program, Cone will offer a half-day or one-day brand strategy session, called a “Return Incubator,” to set the program's objectives. The standards for developing campaigns will be relevance, results-oriented, ability to resonate, and reliability, Fleishman added.

Cone does not release specific revenue numbers, but CEO Jens Bang said the firm posted double-digit increases and exceeded expectations for both revenue and profit in 2011, according to PRWeek's Agency Business Report.

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