Cosmo occupies a niche in the middle ground between the large Japanese advertising agency-owned public relations firms, many of which have impressive media contacts and local knowledge but limited strategic capabilities, and the Japanese operations of U.S. multinational agencies, which often provide good processes and sound strategic thinking but don’t always have strong local relationships. Led by Kumi Soto, an American educated former McKinsey consultant who took over her parents’ firm in the early 80s, Cosmo looks to combine the best features of both those groups.
Having launched in the 50s—the firm will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year—and worked primarily with Japanese companies through its first 30 years, Cosmo changed its focus when Sato took the helm, focusing on providing assistance to U.S. multinationals looking to establish themselves in Tokyo (today about 75 percent of its clients are multinationals). It also moved beyond the media relations realm to offer strategic communications consultancy, and today is best known for issues-driven work, particularly in the healthcare (launching the first female oral contraceptive in the Japanese market) and food (handling various regulatory and safety issues for U.S. beef producers) sectors. A major point of differentiation is its proprietary Key Opinion Leader Mapping process, which provides insight into the attitudes of stakeholders, their decision making processes, and the issues they perceive as being of primary importance.
Sato continues to lead the firm and remains one of the leading figures in the Japanese public relations industry, having been named as one of 50 “Stars of Asia” by Business Week magazine and one of 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of Japan by Forbes and having more recently authored a book on corporate social responsibility (Aisaseru Kaisha no Jiken). The firm’s leadership team includes executive director Paul Hasegawa, formerly a director with ACNielsen