PR News' Top Places to Work in PR 2011

The most successful teams in sports create an environment in which their players can succeed. In the case of PR teams, that’s not just an on-the-premises pool table or bowling nights. It’s providing benefits that enable personal and professional growth. Here we present our 2011 Top Places to Work in PR—the agencies, corporations and nonprofits that truly walk the walk for their employees.

All of these organizations were honored at the Nov. 30, 2011, PR People Awards luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
 

Agencies

Affect 

Affect president Sandra Fathi encourages an entrepreneurial spirit among employees, who are made to feel as if they can share ideas at any time on how to enhance the agency and its services. This feedback has been formalized and put into practice at scheduled meetings at which each employee is given 10 minutes to present a new idea in front of the entire company.
The small, close-knit agency also emphasizes this entrepreneurial spirit by positioning itself as a “group of technology geeks.” It emphasizes a passion for technology and dedication to PR craft, making the agency a career builder for anyone who passes through its doors. The stated goal is to empower individuals and help them grow personally and professionally.
To that end, Affect offers a $1,000 stipend for professional development and organizes monthly lunch and learns.
The Affect team (l-r): Front row: Ola Lasman, Regina Nisita, Nick Stackhouse, Leslie Campisi (VP and partner), Katie Koenig, Pat Gotham. Back row: Brittany Bevacqua, Julia Gaynor, Sandra Fathi (president and founder), Kaylen McNamara, Kate Ryan, Ryan Derousseau. Not pictured: Katie Safrey, Yasmeen Dhanani and Katie Shill.
 

Coyne Public Relations 

Coyne PR’s success is built on the belief that it has to continually foster each employee’s career path.

 

 

“The best way to create a true sense of teamwork in the workplace is to first create a culture that values collaboration and teamwork and then strike a balance between setting collective team-based goals and delivering individual recognition,” says Tom Coyne, CEO. “Teamwork is best accomplished when each team member feels valued and knows that they have a voice.”

The agency conducts an annual employee survey to formally elicit feedback and suggestions. The most recent survey led to the creation of numerous employee committees to address and develop best-in-class programs, including a flexible work policy, a reduced work week, a formal review process which includes a self-evaluation and feedback on immediate supervisors and expansions to the agency’s internal training program, Coyne College.

This training program is designed to develop the knowledge and skills of Coyne’s employees and give them the best opportunity to succeed, wherever their careers take them. Beyond Coyne College, the agency encourages employees to seek additional ways to continue their education and further their understanding of public relations and their clients’ industries.

Tom Coyne, CEO of Coyne Public Relations, is joined by Rich Lukis, Lisa Wolleon, Andrew Testa, Julie Geraghty and Mark Martin (l-r), among others, as he officially cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the company's new headquarters in Parsippany, NJ.

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers Communications Group  

Flowers Communications Group likes to consider itself a “door-less” shop. Senior management’s doors are never closed, and all attempts are made to make staff feel empowered to share their ideas. In fact, many of its current policies and procedures were directly influenced by feedback from staff.

 

 

The open-door policy has helped prevent valued staffers from walking out those open doors for good. The agency reports that voluntary turnover is extremely low. The first full-time employee hired nearly 20 years ago is still there, and a longtime member of the senior team departed in August but only to fulfill her lifelong dream of attending film school at UCLA.

Daisy Garcia, assistant account executive puts it best: “When I walk into FCG, I’m not surrounded by co-workers, I am surrounded by family who works together to ensure the success of not just the business but the individual—professionally, spiritually and emotionally.”

FCG is partnered with Insperity, a PEO that helps the agency deliver the best possible benefit packages and incentives. This includes everything from management classes and annual review training to team-building exercises and software courses.
Flowers Communications Group staff (l-r): Bottom row: Maya Munro, Antoinette Jamison, Daisy Garcia, Nathaly Gamino, Sitting: Rashada Whitehead (president), Michelle Flowers Welch (CEO and founder), Tony Balasandiran, Mary Corbin-Wynn, Harvey Henao. Top row: Sharron Banks, Ronald Childs, Ebonne Just, Danyele Davis, Julie Kent, Tracy Anderson, Wanda Taylor-Ward, Aaron Payne, Christina Steed, Chevonne Collins, Veronica Chaidez, Juan Alvarez.

 

 

 

 

 

Ketchum 

Ketchum creates HR programs that are designed to support employees in every stage of their career. In 2010, more than 200 employees earned promotions, reflecting new opportunities for nearly 12% of the agency’s staff. But employee promotions are not an end in themselves—they are part of a concerted drive toward enhanced teamwork and collaboration.

 

 

“At Ketchum, where collaboration is part of our core values, teamwork means working together in a way that creates a shared sense of accountability, responsibility and authority to arrive at a high-quality final product for our clients,” says Rachel Wallins, partner and global human resources director at Ketchum. “But we also believe that a healthy dose of fun plays a big role in teams working harder—and therefore more effectively—together.”

To that end, Ketchum employees around the globe are involved in company-sponsored sports teams and the list of social events at offices is long, including themed monthly happy hours called “Ketch of the Month.”

Ketchum is also an acknowledged leader in employee development and education. In 2010 its training program, Ketchum College, was relaunched as Ketchum University and offers nearly 1,500 hours of courses, many of which are tailored for specific geographical regions. Also available is Camp Ketchum, its signature training program which focuses on up-and-coming leadership.

Ketchum is also leader in diversity recruitment and development; nearly 70% of managerial-level employees are diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender.

Camp Ketchum is one of Ketchum’s signature training programs and focuses on up-and-coming leadership. The latest Camp Ketchum took place in July 2011 at Mont Tremblant in Canada, with 76 campers and 20 counselors from 38 offices in 16 countries. In this photo, members of the Red Team celebrate after completing their presentation at the Philips client challenge. Clockwise from top left: Stuart Barnes, Ketchum Pleon (Düsseldorf); Ellen Spellman, MMG (London); Ben Saft, Emanate (New York); Alexandra Marsh, Ketchum Pleon (New York); Courtney Nally, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment (New York); Luke Molloy, Inspired Science (New York); Sucheta Ghosh, Ketchum Sampark (New York); Jaime Schwartz, Ketchum (New York); Chiara Giacoletto Papas, Ketchum (Milan); Kate Adorno, account director, Access Communications (New York).

 

 

 

 

 

Linhart Public Relations 

The staff at Linhart PR surely appreciates the monthly chat ’n’ chew breakfasts with senior management and the weekly Beer Friday gatherings, but few things show appreciation like fair compensation. In its annual employee satisfaction survey, team members said that the top-ranked benefit was Linhart PR’s cash bonus program, which recognizes their work and the results of that work.

 

 

Linhart PR pays a quarterly cash bonus to all permanent non-partner employees based on 20% of the agency’s net income. In 2010, the agency paid nearly $130,000 in bonuses. In addition to the quarterly bonuses, Linhart PR closes for a week during the holidays, giving employees extra time off with pay. This all provides staffers more than just financial health—it gives them a personal stake in the future of the agency.

“A key characteristic of our workplace is ensuring team members feel a sense of ownership—knowing that they can make decisions and make a difference in positively impacting their clients and supporting their colleagues,” says Sharon H. Linhart, APR, founder and managing partner. “This starts with team members understanding how their work contributes to the firm and client’s organization in meaningful, tangible ways. It also involves rewarding, recognizing and celebrating their efforts.”

The Linhart Public Relations team. Missing from the photo: SVP and partner Paul Raab and CFO and partner Carri Clemens.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Marina Maher Communications 

Sahil Patel

 

 

Marina Maher Communications has sought to distance itself from a "me-too" approach to its client work and understands that the only way to deliver on its credo of “world class talent wins the race” is to follow this simple formula: hire talent, reward it, keep it and watch it flourish. And the best way to follow that formula is to be there for your staff when they need you and get out of their way when they don’t.

“We believe that all jobs are important at MMC and everyone contributes to the good of the organization,” says Debra Gaynor, MMC’s chief business strategist. “MMC employees understand from day one that the agency has a team-oriented, collaborative and respectful culture. Senior leaders from the CEO down live this culture and expect it of others. Teamwork is integrated into both agency and account structures, and is evaluated and rewarded.”

Examples of this integration of teamwork concepts include:

Empowerment and enforcement: Staff meet by level monthly and are charged with facilitating compliance of best practices throughout the agency. These meetings also empower teams and allow them to share insights and knowledge across accounts.
The Marina Maher Communications team.

Dedication to staff development and training: MMC offers a Masters Program designed to help staff grow professionally and personally; the agency has a $500,000 annual budget for this program.

Clear direction: Team member participation is clearly defined as, and reinforced at, weekly team meetings.

Contribution to the community: The agency sponsors MMC for a Cause, an ongoing charity effort that provides staffers an opportunity to participate in a variety of charitable programs throughout the year. The program was formalized in 2007 in response to employees’ increasing desire to give back to the community.

Reward and recognition: The agency frequently comes together for “Welcome to MMC” breakfasts, “cocktails with the CEO,” agency summer scavenger hunts, a Halloween and holiday party. One of the most popular events of the year is the Agency ASTA Awards (named after the agency mascot, ASTA the dog) to recognize and reward those individuals who have gone above and beyond what is expected of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Ogilvy PR Worldwide 

Teamwork is at the core of business excellence, but achieving a true sense of teamwork takes more than thumbing through a few management textbooks and attending multiple seminars. At Ogilvy PR, the enemies of teamwork and success has historically been boredom and conflict. The agency fights both by making learning, training and exploration part of everyone’s everyday job.

 

 

“What’s important is that we come to the table with open minds, knowing that great ideas can come from any channel,” says Rachel Foltz Ufer, VP, external relations & business development, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. “While we might challenge an idea or build to make it better, a spirit of collaboration and partnership is at the heart of all we do. With clients seeking the most value from their agencies, it truly is incumbent upon us to get the most out of all the members of the team.”

Year after year, Ogilvy tweaks the core curriculum of its professional development program, RedEd. The program consists of weekly internal trainings directly related to the business of public relations. The program, which now includes social media training, has resulted in more than 750 employees in 20-plus cities worldwide who can now manage a crisis online, create an online conversation map and more.

Volunteerism is an essential element of the team building at Ogilvy. Announcement and calls for volunteers are often made at open-forum monthly staff meetings, via e-mail or posted to office bulletin boards.

Ogilvy PR hosted a diaper drive during the 2010 holiday season on behalf of Huggies' Every Little Bottom campaign to provide diapers to families in need.

 

 

 

 

 

The OutCast Agency 

The OutCast Agency doesn’t leave employee development to chance—or to the employees. Each OutCast employee is assigned a career coach within the first months of employment who provides feedback and advice, facilitates annual reviews and makes recommendations for career advancement.

 

 

This is supplemented by the OutCast Training program, an ongoing series taught by OutCast’s own experts on tactical topics, from writing workshops to time management overviews. OutCast also hosts guest speakers, such as journalists from Bloomberg Businessweek and TechCrunch.

OutCast eschews segmentation into traditional practice areas and gives employees a well-rounded experience, which can include a mix of clients in enterprise and consumer technology, start-ups and public corporations, software and hardware, green technology, venture capital and more.
(Left to Right) Kayla Kooyman, Johanna Peace, Amy Brinker, Dani Metz, Sheeva Zarechian, Edie Campbell-Urban, Carolyn Thomas, Marissa Coughlin, Angela D'Arcy, Molly Mahoney, Kyla Keefe, Jessica Lanz, Kevin Shen, Becky Porter, Gwen Belomy, Megan Anderson, Alex Constantinople, Kate McEwan, Eva Babiak, Chris Kraeuter, Kevin Wilkins, Zoz Cuccias, Nate Potter, Alex Kirschner.

 

 

 

 

 

SpeakerBox Communications 

Throughout its 14-year history, SpeakerBox Communications has learned that in order to create a true sense of teamwork, its priority has to be an environment that encourages learning, leadership and collaboration. It has done this by facilitating growth and team-oriented initiatives like staff-led trainings, mentorship meetings, brainstorm sessions, annual peer reviews and team-building activities on a consistent basis. Two employee training and development programs of note are SpeakerBox's "Lunch and Learn" and "Blog and Learn"—each employee picks an account services area that they would like to get better at (such as social media, content development, SEO, etc.) and then commits to researching and training the team on that topic.

 

 

Furthermore, a core aspect of the company is its one-to-one mentoring program, where employees get a clearer sense of how to tackle their goals by sitting down with their manager to discuss progress every other week. The program is complemented by a collaborative management system that give employees the opportunity to work with managers who lead other client accounts.

"All of these initiatives are the building blocks for a unique and successful culture, one that we protect fiercely at SpeakerBox and value on a daily basis,” says Elizabeth Shea, president and CEO of SpeakerBox Communications. In addition to traditional benefits, SpeakerBox employees are rewarded and recognized with a host of incentives, including the One Team Award, which is a peer recognition program with a quarterly and annual cash incentive, a referral program and business development incentives. In addition, after five years of service, employees are rewarded with a four-week paid sabbatical. The company also sponsors half-day community service projects each quarter, SpeakerBox Day (a team-building event held outside the office) and the Top SpeakerBox Chef competitive cook-off.
The SpeakerBox team celebrates the 2010 holiday season in their aprons, showcasing their love for food in office recipe battles. Back row (l-r): Pheniece Jones, Jonathan Katz, Crissy Upston, Stephanie Wonderlick, Jennifer Edgerly, Ali Robinson, Mary Evans, Elizabeth Shea, John Terrill, Katie Hanusik, Lisa Throckmorton. Front row: Kathryn Kaplan and Laura Norris. (Not pictured: New to the team this year is Pete Larmey and Kate Nesbitt.)

 

 

 

 

 

Waggener Edstrom Worldwide 

At Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, employee engagement, development and retention is driven by multiple programs that have one core message: positive outcomes only come from effective teamwork.

 

 

“To help drive collaboration and build understanding across teams, offices and cultures, we encourage employees to use our established tools, resources and agency-wide programs including our Leadership Forum, Global Exchange, Intranet, brownbags, in-house mentorships and other Learning & Development opportunities, all of which enables them to knowledge-share, discuss ideas and better connect with teammates across the globe,” says Claire Lematta, president, global regions.

Among those programs: an annual talent review in which employees create individual development plans, regardless of position and seniority; the Learning & Development program, which enables employees to gain greater understanding of the industry through workshops, training and classes; and quarterly internships, designed to give the next generation of communications professionals real-world experience (WE consistently hires the majority of its interns for full-time positions.)

Institutionalized volunteerism is an essential characteristic of the top place to work in PR, and WE is one of the industry’s leading lights in that department. Full-time employees are eligible to take up to 16 hours per year to volunteer for an organization of their choice; employees can also apply for a volunteer grant to support their causes. To help employees use all their 16 hours, the agency sponsors team volunteer events and WE Make a Difference Days.

Waggener Edstrom Worldwide employees in the agency’s Portland, Ore., office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corporations

Discovery Communications 

Discovery Communications has been on the forefront of workplace innovation for so long that it’s easy to take it for granted. Its on-site childcare center at its Silver Spring, Md., headquarters, Discovery Kids Place, and its MentorNet mentoring program alone cast its as a workplace that places a high value on work/life balance and career advancement. Discovery has developed its work environment around a simple philosophy: When you are successful in your personal life, you will naturally excel at work. This philosophy radiates outward: The professionalism and good cheer of its communications staff is well-known within the cable industry trade press.

 

 

Discovery offers an array of programs including One Learning Place (an online learning library) and the Professional Growth Program for early career employees. Employees have access to wellness centers in Silver Spring, New York and Miami, and new centers will be opening in London and Virginia in 2012; the wellness centers provide all primary care needs including travel immunizations, laboratory work, allergy injections and nutritional counseling.

Volunteerism is encoded in the DNA at Discovery. Annual events such as Discover Your Impact Day, a global day of volunteerism, and Creating Change, a 12-hour pro-bono imitative, show that Discovery is committed to making a direct impact on its communities.
Front row (l-r): Discovery Communications’ David Leavy, EVP, corporate affairs and global communications; founder and chairman John Hendricks; Michelle Russo, SVP, corporate affairs & communications; Tammy Shea, VP, corporate affairs & communications; David Zaslav, president & CEO; and Catherine Frymark, SVP, communications, are joined by the members of Discovery’s corporate communications team.

 

 

USANA Health Sciences 

he workplace philosophy at USANA Health Sciences: Brilliant minds cannot sit in front of computers all day long and work without breaks, and the breaks must go beyond mere coffee. Employees use these breaks to engage in organized volleyball tournaments, kickball games, Wii tournaments in the brainstorm room, bake-offs, fitness competitions and more. And the demands of family life are part of the workplace vision, as employees have access to an off-site daycare facility where they get a 10% discount. USANA also offers employees complimentary nutritional products, on-site fitness facilities and a professional trainer at no cost.

 

 

Professional growth opportunities abound at USANA. “With new markets opening all over the world, associate numbers growing, and sales continuing to increase, all these factors contribute to the growing departments at the USANA home office. The future of USANA is very positive,” says USANA CEO Dave Wentz.”

Relationships with Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) and volunteer opportunities through some of USANA’s athletic sponsorships encourage employees to think beyond the company’s immediate mission. Employees even have the option to donate to CHF through their monthly paychecks, and associates, as well as preferred customers, have the option to donate to CHF.

 

 

EMD Serono 

At biopharmaceutical company EMD Serono, winner of PR News’ 2011 CSR Award for employee relations, the key elements of its thriving workplace are high energy and commitment. “EMD Serono offers ample opportunity for growth not only within the U.S. business, but around the world. The global reach of our organization creates incredible upward potential for employees who are committed, focused and exceptional performers,” says Renee Connolly, VP, U.S. communications.

 

 

These growth opportunities extend to the personal and family level. “EMD Serono recognizes that employees have differing needs when it comes to welcoming a new child into their family,” says Connolly. To support the unmet needs of families of all types, employees are eligible for a five-week paid leave when they give birth, their spouse or partner gives birth, they adopt or for the placement of a foster child.

EMD Serono’s Back-Up Care Advantage partnership with Bright Horizons enables employees to use their paid time off for relaxation and rejuvenation, instead of having to stay home when their babysitter is sick or school is closed. “This benefit has provided a great sense of relief to the working families who have used the service,” says Connolly.

To assist employees in their ability to balance their work and personal commitments, the company offers a number of programs, including flexible work arrangements, on-site convenience amenities (gym, dry cleaning, express store), bonus breather hours (bonus day off) and summer Fridays.

EMD Serono’s CSR Award-winning giving program, “Make a Difference in Society,” allows employees to devote two volunteer days a year without using vacation days. EMD Serono is also a sponsor of several walks and rides throughout the year, including the AIDS Walk and the Cape Cod Getaway, a two-day bike ride to support the National MS Society. EMD Serono also hosts charity dinners for employees, food, clothing and toy drives. Last year, EMD Serono contributed 4,500 hours and more than $2 million to charitable organizations.
Left to right: Kate Cingolani, Heather Connor, Amber Watterson, Renee Connolly, Erin-Marie Beals, Kristen Laverghetta, Tracey Pomfret, Jennifer Bianco, Steve McGettrick.

 

 

International Paper 

The 2011 PR News CSR Award winner in the corporate/community partnership category, Memphis-Tenn.-based International Paper has its own charitable foundation that supports nonprofit organizations with primary focus areas of environmental education and literacy programs for young children. The foundation's signature program is "Coins 4 Kids," An employee relief fund assists co-workers and communities impacted by natural disasters, personal tragedies or other circumstances beyond their control by pooling both company and employees resources.

 

 

For International Paper’s director of communications, Patty Neuhoff, the key characteristic of a thriving workplace is an engaged workforce. “It sounds simple, but creating an atmosphere where employees feel their opinions matter is hard work,” Neuhoff says. More than a decade ago, International Paper began working with the Gallup organization to measure its employee engagement. Those findings have served as a baseline that has led the company to continually raise the bar and find out what matters most to employees. This commitment to listening has paid off: it is common to meet employees at IP working 20,30 even 40+ years.

After a devastating flood hit an IP community in 2000, IP employees wanted to respond, but soon realized there wasn’t a fast and easy way to provide support to their colleagues. Shortly after the flood, the company created the IP Employee Relief Fund. The Fund provides cash gifts—up to $2,500—for expenses related to food, clothing and shelter for employees who are victims of natural disasters or hardships. Over the years the program has expanded it to help victims of global disasters such as the Asian Tsunami and most recently the victims of the Haitian Earthquake.

For the communications team, work/life balance is difficult because of the 24/7 news cycle, which often blurs the lines between the end of a work day and the beginning of another. IP’s approach is to ensure the team has the flexibility they need, when they need it. “[We work to ensure] they take vacations—many often don’t—and that they disconnect after big events, which require long back-to-back work days. There is no silver bullet other than just having the good common sense of knowing when you and your employees have reached their limit,” says Neuhoff.

 

 

Northwestern Mutual 

Northwestern Mutual, the winner of PR News’ 2011 Platinum PR Award in employee communications, has developed over the years a strong bond with its hometown of Milwaukee, Wisc., that enriches both company employees and the greater community. The communications team is always looking for ways to further strengthen that bond, and found one when longtime Northwestern chairman and CEO Edward J. Zore decided to retire in 2010. Northwestern commemorated Zore’s community ties by developing “Leaving a Legacy: The Million Minutes Project.” The concept behind the project was strong and clear: Northwestern Mutual would donate 1 million minutes of employee time to nonprofits throughout Milwaukee.

 

 

All 5,000 employees would be given four hours of paid time off, and be challenged to find a way they could help their community. More than 4,000 employees (80% of the workforce) volunteered just over 1 million minutes to more than 1,120 nonprofit organizations throughout Milwaukee, ranging from schools and food banks to home building and special needs programs. In a wrap-up survey of Northwestern Mutual employees, their positive impressions of the company increased to 97%.

The communications team at Northwestern Mutual (l-r): Rebecca Schwerdtfeger, Meredyth Naramore, Jean Towell, Shawn Rolland, Kirsten Helgeson and John Forristal. Not pictured: Jennifer Ryan.

 

 

 

Nonprofits

AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) 

The communications team at the American Institute of CPAs functions as its own mini PR agency, encompassing media relations, social media, Web content, member communications, periodicals, creative services, video production, advertising, brand management and internal communications. Its ethos reflects that of the entire organization: it is committed to quality, achievement, staff development and community.

 

 

The AICPA offers individuals opportunities to expand their skill set, explore ever-evolving challenges, and become leaders in whatever position they hold. Reflecting that on the benefits side, the AICPA offers a robust benefit package that includes both traditional health benefits and many unique offerings. In 2011, the institute introduced the AICPA Health &Wellness Program, a benefit designed to support employees in making healthier choices. This program includes a 100% subsidized Weight Watchers at Work offering, a gym reimbursement policy, access to an online Health & Wellness Portal, pedometers for all employees, company sponsored tennis, pilates, and yoga classes, free registration for local bike races and 5Ks and monthly wellness seminars that cover topics such as diabetes awareness, stress management and first aid/CPR training.

For the past three years the Institute has won local and national accolades including the Sloan Workplace Flexibility and the Carolina Parent “Family Friendly Workplace” awards. Nearly all Institute employees are issued a laptop and many work-from-home and telecommuting arrangements have been made in support of its commitment to work/life balance. The AICPA also offers employees its Building Blocks Parenting Group, a network of parents who meet monthly to schedule informational sessions (how to save for college), share brown bag lunches (what to expect when your child goes off to kindergarten) and organize family-friendly events, such as on-site trick-or-treating for employees’ children.
The communications and media channels team at AICPA.

 

American Heart Association 

AICPA (American Institute of CPAs)The communications team at the American Institute of CPAs functions as its own mini PR agency, encompassing media relations, social media, Web content, member communications, periodicals, creative services, video production, advertising, brand management and internal communications. Its ethos reflects that of the entire organization: it is committed to quality, achievement, staff development and community.

 

 

The AICPA offers individuals opportunities to expand their skill set, explore ever-evolving challenges, and become leaders in whatever position they hold. Reflecting that on the benefits side, the AICPA offers a robust benefit package that includes both traditional health benefits and many unique offerings. In 2011, the institute introduced the AICPA Health &Wellness Program, a benefit designed to support employees in making healthier choices. This program includes a 100% subsidized Weight Watchers at Work offering, a gym reimbursement policy, access to an online Health & Wellness Portal, pedometers for all employees, company sponsored tennis, pilates, and yoga classes, free registration for local bike races and 5Ks and monthly wellness seminars that cover topics such as diabetes awareness, stress management and first aid/CPR training.

For the past three years the Institute has won local and national accolades including the Sloan Workplace Flexibility and the Carolina Parent “Family Friendly Workplace” awards. Nearly all Institute employees are issued a laptop and many work-from-home and telecommuting arrangements have been made in support of its commitment to work/life balance. The AICPA also offers employees its Building Blocks Parenting Group, a network of parents who meet monthly to schedule informational sessions (how to save for college), share brown bag lunches (what to expect when your child goes off to kindergarten) and organize family-friendly events, such as on-site trick-or-treating for employees’ children.
The communications team at AHA (l-r): First row: Matthew Fisher, Maggie Francis, Wynette Randolph, Julie Del Barto, Megan Lozito, Tammy Pleasant. Second row: Kate Lino, Katie Brooks, Marleny Ramirez, Toiya Honore, Cathy Lewis, Bridgette McNeill. Third row: Patricia Beatty-Gonzalez, Tagni McRae, Joanna Carr, Carrie Thacker, Kristi Manning, Alexandra Paterson.

 

charity: water 

Charity: water may be setting a new standard for nonprofit organizations. It functions like a stripped-down, high tech start-up in its attempts to bring safe drinking water to developing nations. Everyone on its small staff wears several hats, and all of them function as communicators—particularly in the realm of social media, and on Facebook in particular.

 

 

Charity: water prides itself on being a truly transparent organization, both externally and internally. “Each employee is a key stakeholder in making the organization a better place and we have open dialogues about our progress and vision for the future,” says Sarah Cohen, communications and development manager, charity: water. From the beginning, growth at charity: water has been very organic. “It started with our founder, Scott Harrison, working out of his apartment with two staffers and an army of volunteers.”

The entrepreneurial spirit is reinforced by more than just the ping-pong table its Manhattan office or the “endlessly flowing” coffee. Staffers receive unlimited Metrocards for the New York subway and are compensated when they ride their bikes to work. Taking a page from Google and Twitter, the organization hosts a beer & pizza meeting every Friday at 5 p.m. “It allows us to come together at the end of the week and encourages people to take off early for the weekend,” Cohen says. “More importantly, it’s an opportunity for creative brainstorms, guest speakers and screenings.”

For its fifth anniversary in September 2011, the staff worked overtime and on weekends to record 250 thank you videos for its supporters. “We spent the entire day e-mailing, calling and writing to our donors to show our appreciation,” Cohen says. “It was an amazing moment to see everyone come together and honor the people that have helped us get to where we are today.” (View the video here)

 

National Education Association 

A multiple honoree in PR News’ 2010 Nonprofit PR Awards, the National Education Association has developed a full range of communications tactics as it advocates on behalf of education professionals and fulfills its mission of developing “great public schools for every student.” An emphasis on professional development at NEA has helped it succeed in the areas of e-mail communications, lobbying and social media.

 

 

It all starts with recruitment. NEA makes a special effort to recruit a workforce inspired by the ideals it believes in, says Leona Hiraoka, director, NEA Interactive Media. “We look for talented, highly motivated individuals who want to join our cause—people who want to create great public schools because they believe, as our members do, that great public schools are a basic right for every student,” she says.

NEA’s in-house Leadership Institute provides opportunities that enhance its ability to be a higher performing learning organization and to support the continued growth and development of its employees. The Institute provides training in four “tracks” or areas: career, management, executive, and health and wellness. Last year, it offered 60 on-site courses (during regular working hours) that attracted over 700 participants.

The NEA offers a generous leave package to its employees. In additions, during July and August, NEA employees work a longer four-day work week and take off every Friday. NEA closes down and provides paid leave from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. Employees also get paid leave to spend at a child’s school or a school-related function (five days per year), paid medical leave (two weeks per year) and employer-paid short and long-term disability benefits.

To help employees balance work and family life, NEA provides back-up care for children and other family members 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Staff may use this program when a regular caregiver is ill or on vacation, a spouse or loved one is recovering from medical treatment, a child or adult family member is ill, when school is closed or while traveling for work.

 

The Methodist Hospital System 

At Houston-based Methodist Hospital System, a thriving workplace comes down to one thing: a healthy environment and rich culture for employees. Employees are committed to a values-based culture and it guides the communications staff in its interactions with each other and with its stakeholders.

 

 

Ten years ago, the hospital system formally identified five core values—integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence—as central to achieving its mission. This I CARE mission drives everything it does; employees have embraced these values and believe that this is what sets Methodist apart from other hospitals. Year in and year out, Methodist beats national averages for employee and patient satisfaction—two areas that go hand in hand.

The Methodist Hospital System encourages employees to obtain any degree that is related to its business. By advancing their education, employees have greater opportunities and help Methodist fill its health care-related needs. It offers $2,500 in tuition reimbursement per year.

Methodist instills work/life balance by offering dozens of free programs for its employees through Employee Wellness. They are charged with creating a culture of health which focuses on health as vitality and energy, not solely as the absence of disease. Goals include keeping healthy employees healthy, reducing health risks and creating the total value of health. Programs range from fitness, to weight loss to nutrition.

Methodist provides funding to more than 20 external agencies annually and employees are encouraged to be involved in these agencies. Throughout the year, Methodist employees are also encouraged to participate in philanthropic activities, including a Methodist sponsored fun run that draws thousands of employees. A special program at Methodist supports employees experiencing difficult life events, and encourages co-workers eager to help. The Employees Helping Employees (“EHE”) program continues to draw contributions from employees who seek to lend aid to their colleagues. The program creates a place where employees can seek help when they encounter a personal crisis caused by events out of their control (family illness, natural disaster, etc.).

The Methodist Hospital System corporate PR team (l-r): Gale Smith, PR manager; Denny Angelle, senior editor; Meghan Blanton, communications and events manager; Stefanie Asin, public relations director; George Kovacik, senior media relations coordinator; Katie Wooldridge, communications manager. Not pictured: David Bricker, PR manage