PR News Celebrates 2013 Top Places to Work in PR

topplaces_20121PR News honored its 2013 Top Places to Work in PR winners at the Oct. 15 Platinum PR Awards luncheon, which was held at New York's Grand Hyatt.

Each year PR News celebrates the PR agencies and brands that stand out as workplaces where communicators can grow professionally and also find the sweet spot of work-life balance. And each year the message gets louder and clearer—that talent needs to be nurtured, and it also needs some fun and relief once in while as well.

2013 Top Places to Work in PR

Allison+Partners: Employees of Allison+Partners receive paid time off for individual community service activities of their choosing, and each of its offices has a Fun Committee tasked with organizing milestone celebrations, birthdays and office parties.

American Institute of CPA’s: The AICPA provides incentives to its employees to remain active and healthy, including offering weight management classes, gym reimbursement benefits, 5K entry fee reimbursement, Pilates & yoga classes, bike race fee reimbursement and stress management seminars.

archer>malmo public relations: Employees at archer/malmo are encouraged to add some individual flavor to their work environment and decorate their office space; the agency also has established an internal group called the Culture Club, which is dedicated to maintaining, growing and perpetuating archer/malmo’s robust and unique agency culture.

The Bateman Group: Bateman Group’s bonus opportunities and generous benefits package set the firm apart and include year-end bonuses—typically exceeding 10-15% of base compensation—and 100% company paid for health, vision and dental insurance with a no co-pay.

Bhava Communications: In addition to providing employees with a fully stocked kitchen, Bhava Communications encourages its employees to maintain an active lifestyle by offering a state of the art full in-office gym complete with cardio equipment, free weights, resistance machines, yoga studio and shower.

Borshoff: Borshoff’s "Bring your Baby to Work" program allows employees to bring their 6-week to 6-month-olds to the office and has been an amazing retention tool, as all but one of the participating parents is still on staff (out of 13 babies the program has had over the years); the agency also has a wellness program that provides free pedometers, educational seminars and incentives to promote healthy living and positive work/life balance.

Burson-Marsteller: Burson-Marsteller has an international assignment program that facilitates international transfers and short-term assignments for workers seeking different cultural and professional experiences; the agency also offers paid time off for school-related activities such as participation in the classroom, parent/teacher sessions or holiday pageants. Corporate Communications Dept. staffers certainly like to keep the work mood light: they have a hilarious weekly internal newspaper called “The Changing Times” and an annual “Changies” award show featuring original cabaret musical numbers and categories like “Most Likely to be Quoted out of Context.”

Cohn & Wolfe: Cohn & Wolfe offers adoption assistance to support employees as they go through the adoption process; in addition, employees can use Cohn & Wolfe’s Education Incentive Program, setting aside up to $40,000 in pre-tax dollars to save for education costs, with Cohn & Wolfe matching up to 17% of payroll contributions to this program.

Coyne Public Relations: Coyne PR offers a bevy of amenities to its employees, including a “Zen den” with massage chairs, pool table team room, nail salon and bar for happy hours; last December, Coyne sent employees on a “mid-week shopping spree” with $200 cash for each of them.

Current Lifestyle Marketing: Current Lifestyle Marketing’s "Mind Body & Soul" program reimburses employees with a monthly stipend for physical activity, arts/cultural experiences or charitable donations that ultimately help them contribute more positively in the workplace; other employee benefits include adoption assistance and identity theft protection.

Dixon Schwabl: Dixon Schwabl regularly recognizes employees in many ways. When an employee goes "above and beyond," the company’s CEO and president gives them something special—a dinner outing, a spa package, tickets to a Broadway show, for example—along with a personal thank you note. The agency also has regular "impromptu" celebrations, enjoying birthdays, pregnancies, anniversaries or other milestones, and account wins.

Edelman: At Edelman, paid sabbaticals are an option starting at 10 years, and employees can take caregiver leave to tend to eldercare emergencies, newly born children and adopted children. And Edelman’s Mentoring Program promotes an environment that fosters growth and development through the sharing of resources, knowledge and ideas.

Fahlgren Mortine: Last year, Fahlgren Mortine CEO Neil Mortine gave the “power to the people” and asked for ideas for how to make the agency an even better place to work. After evaluating suggestions from staff, the executive team elected to increase 401(k) match contributions, showing an investment that will benefit employees for many years.

GolinHarris: From happy hours to ball games to movie night to team dinners, to drink carts and beer fairies, every GolinHarris office hosts casual, fun and entertaining social events to build camaraderie, team spirit and friendships.

GroundFloor Media: Team members and upper level management at GroundFloor Media routinely sent out company wide emails thanking and/or congratulating teammates on a job well done. In fact, the frequency of such emails was one of the impetuses behind the creation of a private Facebook group for the agency—to help cut down on email overflow. Now kudos and related "likes" and comments fill the GFM Facebook group feed instead.

Hunter Public Relations: Consistent opportunities for growth are built into Hunter PR's culture and practices. Bi-annual reviews are held each March and September, allowing for a formal time when promotions, raises, bonuses, profit sharing and additional compensation are discussed. Additionally, employees who demonstrate exceptional potential can also be awarded promotions and/or raises at any time of the year, at the discretion of the partners.

IFC International: Team members at ICF’s International Strategy Communications and Marketing (SCM) Division are entitled to a bevy of benefits, including same sex domestic partner benefits; adoption assistance; wellness program; pet insurance; bike to work program; mass transit subsidies; and tuition assistance.

Infusionsoft: Last year, Infusionsoft made an investment in hiring a full-time “dream manager,” who is responsible for helping employees discover or rediscover their dreams and then helps them map out a path to make the dreams a reality. In fact, the Dream Manager Program encourages employees to pursue their dream, even if it's not with the company.

The International Association of Privacy Professionals: The Marketing and Communications team at the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a not-for-profit company, is extremely passionate about its work—and the opportunity for growth is a big reason why. To encourage continued growth, each department has budgeted money for staff training and development, which can cover membership in a professional association, educational materials, attendance at workshops, certificate courses or conferences or other avenues.

JCPR: JCPR hosts multiple off-site team building activities that are conducted during work hours to boost morale among employees in a fun way: activities have included bowling, attending a Mets game, and an annual holiday party. The firm also offers holiday-themed treats to its employees— for example, a free spa day was provided for all on Mother's and Father's Day.

Kaiser Permanente: Kaiser Permanente PR’s environment has been described as fun, creative, collaborative and inclusive— all with an emphasis on total health. In addition, The Association of Diversity Councils recognized the top 25 American organizational diversity councils and Kaiser Permanente ranked a very impressive number three.

Ketchum: Last year, colleagues dedicated nearly 1,000 hours to Ketchum's global pro bono partner “Room to Read,” contributing to more than $1.4 million in time over four years; in addition, Ketchum employees raised more than $20,000 in 2012 alone to help establish a library in Tanzania.

Laughlin/Constable: Laughlin/Constable provides a number of internal training programs to help further growth and development. Monthly Brown Bag Training Sessions feature LC employees speaking about an area of expertise, allowing opportunities for the PR team to discuss its work and learn about the other disciplines including social media, digital, UX and more. Videos of the presentations are made available on LC’s intranet, and employees who successfully complete six sessions receive a gift card for lunch on the company.

LaunchSquad: LaunchSquad has a fitness program where each office can invite a health professional in bi-weekly to teach a class—its San Francisco office has had the pleasure of having yoga taught by one of its team members, who is also a yoga instructor. The company also has a rewards program called "Exclamation Points," where Squad members can earn points for going above-and-beyond by organizing a volunteer activity for the office, helping another client team with pitching or new business outreach, among other things.

Linhart Public Relations: With a cash bonus program, an 87% retention rate, regular team-building events, a peer-to-peer recognition program called Mile High Fives and Friday celebrations of Colorado micro-brews, Linhart sets a standard for employee relations. And that's not all. The agency has an open-book management policy, providing a high-level P&L rundown with all employees at our monthly staff meetings.

Lippe Taylor Brand Communications: At Lippe Taylor, the emphasis is on a fun, smart, creative and collaborative culture, and the talent is recognized, nurtured and rewarded. That's a core value. Employees are offered a rare company that provides the best of both worlds: financial benefits typically found only in big companies, with the hands-on touch of hominess and caring that comes with a smaller company. And then there's an employee nourishment program, in which employees are fed early and often: from Morning Perk Mondays, to Sweet Treat on Wednesdays and Pizza Fridays.

Makovsky: Makovsky's commitment to internal growth and advancement is rare in a business where employees are sometimes treated as interchangeable parts. Two of Makovsky's most senior consultants began their careers with the agency as account executives over 30 years ago, a fact unheard of in the public relations agency field. Makovsky is a notably transparent organization, especially considering that it is privately owned. Open lines of communication characterize the firm at all levels.

Marina Maher Communications: MMC prides itself on being a high-touch organization. Its level of communication and transparency is among the best, and senior management uses a variety of channels to share news and information, ask for feedback, encourage ideas and involvement and share best practices. Great compensation? Check. Advancement opportunities? Check. Continuing education? Check. Alternative work rules? Check. All these things add up to a company that's thriving, with turnover going down as employment is going up.

MasterCard Worldwide: For MasterCard to achieve maximum success, the company knows its employees must also be successful. So it's creating an environment where employees can hone their skills and rise up through the ranks. There are many programs at MasterCard that support this, including the MasterCard University program, created to ensure employees are in a workplace environment where they are encouraged to constantly innovate. Then there's the MasterCard Smart Moves Program, which encourages employees to seek assignments in other areas of the organization or regions of the world.

MWW: At MWW, employee career growth and advancement are a top priority. So is a healthy work-life balance, tuition reimbursement, community service opportunities in lieu of a work day, shortened Friday hours and birthdays off. All these things add up to an environment that's corporate, but creative and fun. To be sure, this organization recognizes the value in rewarding its employees' hard work and dedication to success, its employees' creativity and innovation, and the results bear out the wisdom of this approach.

Nancy Friedman Communications: This is an agency that encourages growth from within. To do that, incentives are used to hit agency sales goals. Last year, for example, the president set a growth and billing goal for the agency. If the goal was hit, every employee would receive an airplane ticket to anywhere in the world. Well, the goal was hit and employees have traveled to Thailand, Brazil, Spain, France, Greece, and Australia, among other places. No doubt, Nancy Friedman Communications is a community-oriented company where the team is working together for a common goal.

Ogilvy: Creativity and fun are essential in PR, and Ogilvy excels at it. The firm has its signature internal awards, the “Ogilvy Golden Eyepatch Awards,” which pay tribute to our founder David Ogilvy. Honorees are recognized each month in different categories including these: The BIG IDEA Award for excellent troubleshooting of a problem; The We Sell or Else Award for outstanding new business efforts or smart media approaches; The Ogilvy Giant Award, for showing extreme support to a team member or someone else in the office beyond one’s normal job function.

OtterBox: The OtterBox public relations department has provided essential support to an organization that's grown from a $10 million company to a $573.9 million company over the course of five years. Clearly, the needs and resources for public relations have changed greatly in a short period of time. And through a variety of tactics, the department's efforts have been and remain core to developing OtterBox as a premium, authentic and engaging brand.

Pepco Holdings: In 2012, the Corporate Communications department of Pepco Holdings Inc. was re-engineered with new leadership, a new structure, revamped job descriptions, greater accountability and internal and external high-performing talent. Last year, the team helped turn around a once tarnished reputation of PHI’s Pepco subsidiary. From summer 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012, Pepco’s overall customer satisfaction improved by 20 percentage points.

Peppercomm: What does it take for an employee to thrive at a PR agency? Peppercom, for one, seems to have it figured out. The management and HR teams never lose sight of the fact that the firm's success is based on the talents and contributions of its employees. The culture is all about being a top-down, bottom up, (and a whole lotta laughs) place to be. It's about creating an environment in which people actually look forward to coming into work every day (all right, at least most days), and that's a responsibility Peppercomm takes very seriously.

Public Communications: They say many people want to work at PCI because of its stellar client roster, but stay long-term because of the phenomenal people who work there. Turnover is exceptionally low for an agency, and 40% of employees have been with the agency for 10 years or more. When the economy faltered, Public Communications took careful measures to avoid staff layoffs.

R&J Public Relations: Through R&J’s structured mentoring program, along with initial 90-day and annual reviews for all staff, employees constantly seek out and receive constructive feedback on performance. More than 25% of R&J’s team is comprised of former interns who now excel in positions ranging from account coordinator to vice president.

Ruder Finn: Recognized by Princeton Review as one of the top internship programs in the country, Ruder Finn’s Executive Training program, one of the oldest training programs in the industry, continues to be a source of pride for the agency. In its 35th year, the program takes talented graduates who are passionate about public relations and turns them into full-fledged PR professionals with the skills needed to excel in their careers.

SAP APJ: At SAP there are no set working hours—each employee is allowed the opportunity to work from home if it's something their managers agree on. SAP provides each employee all the devices they need to stay connected from any part of the world i.e. laptop, phones, iPads. SAP employees can also sign up for a 6-month fellowship with another department sometimes in another part of the world, where they will be able to assist that team while learning more about that team.

Shift Communications: In a recent poll, most employees cited, "SHIFT closes down for the week between Christmas and New Year's," as the best perk, but it does not end there. There are also Summer Fridays, Volunteer Time Off, Walking Club, Cultural Reimbursement, Professional Development and Networking Opps paid for by SHIFT, Voting Time Off, Ejector Seat Fridays—the list continues.

Sprint: Corporate Communications professionals at Sprint have the opportunity to help drive results for every aspect of Sprint's business from employee development to customer experience to government affairs and corporate responsibility through internal and external communications. The Corp Comm department has its own dedicated Talent Management team, who consistently work with department leaders and staff to monitor performance, opportunities, employee satisfaction and resource development.

Vantage PR: Through the Vantage Exchange Program, employees are allowed to travel and experience day-to-day work life in another Vantage office. This program provides a chance for employees to become better acquainted with colleagues in their work environment and understand the bigger Vantage picture. For the 2013 annual retreat, all employees spent a three-day weekend in San Francisco attending workshops, going sightseeing and enjoying each other's company.

W2O Group: The matrixed structure of W2O Group allows staffers to work on clients across a wide-range of industries and practices, offering up countless opportunities to work on projects that align with personal interests and career aspirations. And internal training tool W2O University offers a continuous learning experience designed for all staff, at every level and point in their career growth.

Waggener Edstrom Worldwide: Waggener Edstrom’s peer-driven Rock Star Awards program recognizes and rewards employees who demonstrate great thinking and/or deliver impactful results. As part of the agency's commitment to creating positive and diverse experiences for employees, Waggener Edstrom is piloting a new job exchange program in the U.S., WE Explore, which provides employees the opportunity to expand their skill sets and gain exposure to new agency areas by stepping out of their day jobs for three-month assignments on another team.

Walker Sands Communications: Walker Sands' environment has a startup mentality that makes a collaborative, inclusive and highly connected workforce possible. Since January 2011, Walker Sands experienced 186% growth and opened a second office in San Francisco to accommodate demand.

Weber Shandwick: Weber Shandwick offers unique benefits to fit the needs of employees, including Identity Theft Assistance Insurance, Group Legal Plan, Group Home & Auto Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance and Adoption Assistance. For work-life balance, the agency provides summer days and offers programs such as "More To Life" (provides free access to concierge-type resources) and "No Boundaries" (selected participants are given a stipend and extra paid week off to experience a new activity that enriches them personally and professionally).

WellPoint: Among WellPoint’s outstanding benefits: Employee Assistance Program - A resource that helps associates and their families when circumstances arise that might adversely affect their work, or health; Parenting Benefits - Benefits include free lactation services, a new parent transition week that provides new parents a full week of pay for half a week of work and adoption assistance that reimburses up to $5,000 per adoption; Dependent Care - Helps associates with the costs of child or elder care.

Wells Fargo & Company: Out of a roughly 200 person corporate communications department, there were 37 promotions in 2012 and 35 to date in 2013. Wells Fargo views its people as a competitive advantage, so there is an intentional effort to help them grow and develop in their careers. The company's Next Generation Leader program identifies talented individuals through a detailed and disciplined annual review process.

Zapwater Communications: While some larger agencies can be driven by office politics, Zapwater stays true to fair policy and procedure. In 2013, in an effort to further invest in and develop the agency's human capital, Zapwater launched ZapU, an ongoing professional development and team building program. Built around three off-site staff retreats, ZapU is an educational experience launched as a forum for employees to interact and form relationships with industry leaders.