Carol Cone announced this week that she is leaving the firm that she founded in 1980 and that bears her name to pursue new interests. As a cause marketer who lives in Boston but never worked at Cone, I nonetheless always benefited from her leadership and enjoyed her warmth.
I first met Carol back in 1997 when I joined the Vice President of Corporate Relations for the Arthritis Foundation National Office on a sales call to Cone's old offices on Canal Street. The person from Cone we were suppose to meet with wasn't there, and my colleague was none too pleased about it. I remember being very nervous. Then Carol appeared. I thought she might ask us to leave! But instead she invited us in and heard us out. Gracious, curious, no-nonsense, and she talked as much to me as to my more senior colleague. That's what I remember about Carol.
I didn't see Carol a lot over the ensuing years, but I felt her influence. I read her Cone/Roper reports, which led to my interest in cause marketing. I also learned from her team. Alison DaSilva taught me about point-of-sale cause marketing and how a program between The Jimmy Fund and Jiffy Lube had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. "Wow, what a good idea!", I thought.
After I started my blog, Selfish Giving, in 2004, Carol was a frequent visitor and to this day she still reads all my newsletters (which is more than can I say for my real mother). She also invited me to her office a couple years ago to talk about blogging and cause marketing. Carol was really interested in what I had to say, and she never made me feel like she knew more (or better) just because she was the "mother of cause marketing." I'll never forget that.
Whenever I saw Carol she always had a kind word, a nice comment, a flattering introduction. She made you feel special, even when you knew there was a crushing line of people behind you waiting to meet her. You only needed to meet Carol once to know why.
Yesterday I wrote to Carol "Bye, Mom." "Not bye. But evolving to the next level," she wrote back. I'm happy that Carol is ready to take her life to the next level. It's a good time to do it.
But I'm most thankful she took the time through the years to come down to my level and be kind and encouraging. It's no surprise she's ready for something more.
Do you have thoughts or memories you want to share about Carol? Feel free to leave them in the comments section. I would love to hear them.