29 October, 2008
1. Carter Ryley Thomas
From the start-when they broke away from Earle Palmer Brown to launch their own agency-Carter Ryley Thomas founders Mark Raper, J.R. Hipple and Mike Mulvehill have emphasized a values-based approach to agency management. The firm’s nine shared values, which can be recited by almost all employees, emphasize respect for the individual, shared responsibility, and work-life balance, and they have given rise to a unique agency culture.
Of course it helps that CRT is one of only a handful of employee-owned PR firms, and that its employee ownership plan is uniquely democratic. It includes not only senior executives but every employee, from account managers to the administrative staff. And no single individual owns more than 17 percent of the company.
But CRT works at creating a great work environment on a daily basis. The firm reinforces its culture through its "We Work" employee recognition plan. Each year, employees are given 12 "We work" slips that they can distribute to colleagues who are living the values. Each quarter, the individual who has received the most slips is rewarded with a prize, which can range from dinner for two at a local restaurant to cleaning service to car detailing.
The firm also has an extensive community involvement program, a comprehensive benefits package, and is in the process of developing an on-site childcare facility.
2. The Horn Group
In the technology sector, the competition for good people has been brutal, so it’s not surprising that six of our top 10 firms are specialists in high-tech PR. It’s also no surprise that The Horn Group leads them, since Sabrina Horn’s firm has won numerous awards for its progressive workplace policies, including "Best Employer" recognition from Working Woman magazine, and an "Excellence in the Bay Area Workplace" nod from the Career Education Center.
Working Woman cited Horn for its "eye-popping benefits packages" and employees at the firm agree, giving their employer high marks for its overall compensation package and for its health benefits in particular. But staffers also praised the physical workspace and the entrepreneurial culture: it scored a perfect 5.0 from employees who were asked whether they agreed that, "my agency encourages people to use their initiative." The firm also scored high marks for its professional development programs and its efforts to balance work-life issues.
3. Citigate Cunningham
Citigate Cunningham-previously Cunningham Communication-was one of the pioneers of the progressive workplace in the public relations industry, investing in professional development and work-life balance long before it was fashionable. The agency continues to be regarded as an employer of choice in Silicon Valley, ranking in the top 15 when survey respondents were asked which agency they would most like to join.
Citigate Cunningham provides three weeks vacation in the first year, and a six-week paid sabbatical after four years. It offers adaptable work schedules, including telecommuting, and the ability to divide the 40-hour work week into four ten-hour days as opposed to the standard five eight-hour days. There are emergency child-care and lactation facilities, an onsite gym, and a computer purchase plan as well as a monthly allowance for DSL lines and cable modems. Onsite massage therapists and yoga classes help employees relax, and there are free beverages and snacks in the kitchen.
4. Fitzgerald Communications
Founded by Cunningham Communication alumna Maura FitzGerald, Cambridge-based FitzGerald Communications is another technology PR specialist with a winning culture, built on a strong foundation of values: a focus on people; a results orientation; open communication; and innovation. The firm maintains its culture, despite its expansion to new office locations, through joint staff meetings, professional development programming and brainstorming, and by transferring staff between offices.
The training program is particularly impressive, from the new hire "boot camp" that introduces employees at all levels to the FitzGerald way of doing things to core skills training to management training offsite. There’s a buddy program for new hires and a mentor program that has been recognized by Inc. magazine. On a lighter note, the agency offers a concierge service, a company-sponsored boating club membership, and onsite pick-up and delivery for dry cleaning.
Among the things that people like best about Cone are the challenging nature of the work and the feeling that what they do makes a difference. Cone is a leader in cause-related marketing, best known as one of the PR industry’s most creative big-idea agencies, and for many employees that translates into tremendous job satisfaction-further enhanced by the agency’s volunteerism program, which gives employees four hours of additional personal time a month to pursue volunteer interests.
The agency backs that up with a training program that puts many much larger firms to shame-up to 120 hours a year per employee, plus a tuition reimbursement program-as well as generous benefits and bonuses. Employees become eligible for a 401k plan on their first day at the agency, and are entitled to three-and-a-half weeks vacation in the first year. Cone also pays up to $300 for smoking cessation programs-or employees can quit on their own for the $300 in cash.
Fleishman-Hillard is the highest rated of all the major agencies ($100 million-plus) on our "Best Agencies to Work For" list, scoring high marks from its own employees and coming in second only to Ketchum as a favored place to work among employees of other firms.
Fleishman was rated the most stimulating workplace environment, with employees that they feel challenged by their assignments and valued by their clients. The firm also scored high marks for its professional development program, its commitment to ethics, and its 360-degree feedback program. Most large firms don’t offer the same level of flexibility as their smaller, niche competitors, but F-H is clearly trying, providing employees with part-time positions, lengthy leaves of absence, and summer hours tailored on an office-by-office basis.
Our survey didn’t solicit actual salary information, but PepperCom’s people certainly feel well rewarded, giving the firm the high marks for its generous pay and its benefits, which include medical insurance (including dental), a 401k plan, and life and long-term disability insurance. The firm also offers an impressive professional development program-PepperCom State University-and some of the most progressive perks in the industry: a visiting nurse from Mount Sinai Medical Center comes to the office to provide blood pressure testing and administer flu shots; there’s a game room; a kitchen stocked with sodas and snacks; and options in Partnership Central, the company’s e-business initiative.
8. Greenough Communications Group
The smallest and newest firm in the top 10 is Greenough Communications Group, another technology specialist, launched in October 1999 by former Weber Group executive vice president Phil Greenough. The agency scored high marks across the board on our employee survey, with staffers praising the entrepreneurial culture-there’s little hierarchy, and industry veterans work alongside younger account professionals in a collaborative atmosphere with no boundaries-and the first-rate benefits.
9. Porter Novelli
Porter Novelli has long been known for its commitment to creating a collab orative, collegial culture. It ranked fourth among employees of other firms when asked where they would most like to work, and scored high marks (second among major agencies only to Omnicom sister agency Fleishman-Hillard) when its own employees were polled. PN’s culture is distinguished by its commitment to community, its commitment to learning, and its commitment to work-life balance-offerings include telecommuting, flexible working arrangement, unpaid leave, employee assistance programs such as backup childcare, concierge services, and a variety of counseling services.
10. The ProMarc Agency
Four committees help ProMarc Agency founder Alisa Fogelman-Beyer ensure that the culture at this Washington-based high-tech specialist continues to attract and retain the best and the brightest. The President’s Council oversees the company’s 360-degree Feedback program, and handles any issues that employees may feel more comfortable discussing outside of management’s earshot; the Training Committee makes sure the professional development programs are among the industry’s best; the Emerging Leaders group provides management grooming; and the Leadership Team brings together the president, COO and VP for regular meetings that include discussion of the firm’s vision and culture.
11. The Hoffman Agency
An international niche firm-this technology shop has operations in the U.S., throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and now in Europe-The Hoffman Agency is able to offer employees the opportunity to transfer between domestic and overseas offices, gaining valuable international experience. The firm also scores high marks for its ethics and integrity, for its overall compensation, and for generous vacation policies (20 days in the first year). Agency president Lou Hoffman also retains an external HR consultancy to allow employees to evaluate his performance.
Every member of Schenkein’s staff, from the receptionist on up, has his or her own "coach," a senior staff member who is responsible for their trainee’s growth and development. Coaches develop a "personal development program" designed to reflect the personal and professional goals of each individual, then they encourage feedback on a regular basis. Says one employee: "I am motivated to contribute to our culture and work environment because of the support I feel from the agency and my coach. I don’t feel that I can ‘fail.’ That is a word that is not used here."
Over the years, no top-tier agency has invested more in human resources than Ketchum. Its professional development program is rated the best in the industry, and employees consistently praise the firm’s collegial atmosphere and open management style, which fosters creativity and helps keep employee turnover well below the industry average. The payoff: Ketchum was the number one choice of employees industry-wide when they were asked where they would most like to work, and the agency finished higher than any other firm that did not participate in the employee survey.
14. Paine PR
Paine PR has always been a values-driven business, built on the belief that people come first-even before profits-and that employees have certain inalienable rights: a right to fairness, openness, participation, self-determination, honesty, and respect. Founder David Paine designed the firm to be responsive to those needs, an approach that has resulted in decisions that wouldn’t get made at other firms: when salaries started rising, Paine adjusted the compensation of everyone at the firm upwards to match the increased demands of new hires. Paine distributes 15 percent of pretax profits to staff, makes sure that women don’t get off the fast track when they start families, and offers partially paid sabbaticals of up to four months.
15. Chandler Chicco Agency
Bob Chandler and Gianfranco Chicco have created one of the least bureaucratic, least hierarchical agency cultures in the country, eliminating job titles, eschewing individual offices and other physical barriers to teamwork, and structuring teams on which it’s not unusual for a principal of the firm to report to an employee. The agency was also among the first to provide daily free catered lunches-not to keep staff in the office longer but to foster congeniality and teamwork. The agency also has a terrific training program, including CCA Boot Camp, a weekend offsite that hones professional skills and encourages collaboration.
16. Metzger Associates*
Metzger & Associates offers a wide range of benefits, from the traditional (a 401k funded with 15 percent of pretax profits; comprehensive health coverage) to the non-traditional. The firm’s Live Long & Prosper benefit program provides financial assistance for healthy activities ranging gym memberships to skiing lessons and educational activities ranging from guitar lessons to public speaking classes. There’s also a stipend for professional development, and a sabbatical program. And the office space-a historical school building on Boulder Creek-is among the most spectacular in the industry.
17. Manning Selvage & Lee
Manning Selvage & Lee president Lou Capozzi promised to transform the firm into an employer of choice among the major agencies, and there are signs that he’s already succeeding. MS&L scores high marks from employees for its expanded professional development program, Passport, and for a culture that provides equal opportunities to everyone. External recognition for the agency’s good work has been slow in coming, however: MS&L ranked just 10th among employees of other firms.
18. Magnet Communications
The turnaround at Magnet Communications (formerly Creamer Dickson Basford) has been nothing short of remarkable. The firm, once regarded as a sweatshop, has developed into one of the most progressive workplaces in the industry, thanks to unique programs including a Bring Your Parents to Work Day that allows staff to show their families exactly what they do for a living. The firm scores especially high marks for initiatives that help employees balance professional and personal needs.
Despite its reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy, Burson-Marsteller scores high marks from employees for its professional development program-among the most comprehensive in the industry-and for its intellectually stimulating work environment. And employees recognize that B-M is working hard to help its people balance work and life issues. Employees of other agencies, meanwhile, rank Burson third on the list of places they would most like to work.
20. Edelman Public Relations Worldwide
Edelman has the most entrepreneurial environment among the major agencies, and it also scores high marks for compensation and benefit packages, and for providing an intellectually stimulating workplace. The firm recently went through a "vision, mission, values" exercise designed in part to create a more people-friendly workplace, and it appears to be paying off. Employees of other agencies rank Edelman fifth on the list of places they would most like to work.
21. Sterling Hager
Sterling Hager is a technology specialist that combines intellectually stimulating work, an impressive professional development program, and a genuine commitment to balancing work and life issues.
22. Hill & Knowlton
Hill & Knowlton ranks among the best places for women and minorities in the industry-a pioneer of g ay-friendly workplace policies-and appears to be getting its luster back: employees of other agencies ranked H&K sixth on the list of places they would most like to work.
23. Collaborative Communications
The name says it all: Collaborative provides a team-oriented, supportive environment where the emphasis is on learning and client service, and makes a genuine commitment to helping employees achieve work-life balance.
24. Edward Howard & Company
Edward Howard is 100 percent employee-owned, and offers both a 401k plan and a profit sharing plan, as well as newly-introduced financial planning services for employees. The Cleveland agency also offers first-rate training through EH&Co. College-and makes it available to both professional and administrative staff.
25. Ogilvy Public Relations
Ogilvy has invested heavily in its AGK (Attracting, Growing, Keeping) plan over the past 12 months, with a major focus on upgrading employee benefits-offering three weeks of vacation at hire, for example. Employees are also eligible to enroll in the firm’s 401k one month after they join the firm.