2016 Best PR Agencies to Work For, North America | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations
The Holmes Report's Best Agencies to Work For are determined by a comprehensive survey of agency employees, at around 50 agencies throughout North America.

The process solicits employee views on a wide range of issues ranging from the integrity of senior management to the quality of professional development, from empowerment and risk-taking to compensation.

Being selected as a Best Agency to Work For by the Holmes Report is considered the ultimate benchmark of PR firm culture and workplace performance, in an industry whose primary asset remains its people.

The four 2016 North American Best Agency to Work For Winners will receive their awards at the SABRE Awards dinner on 5 May in New York.

BEST LARGE AGENCY TO WORK FOR: EDELMAN

Edelman’s employer brand has come a long way since the days when the firm was known for a ruthless, winner-takes-all culture that prized new business success above collegiality, collaboration and client services. The firm’s success—it has outpaced most of its multinational peers in recent years—is clearly a contributing factor, as is the firm’s independence, but Edelman has also recognized the need to attract talent from non-traditional areas (data and digital, analytics and advertising) and so it has put in the work to create a truly special work environment.

Some non-traditional professional development opportunities include a “mini MBA” program that sends future leaders for a two-week immersion at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a contest offering emerging creative talent a ticket to Cannes. On the work-life balance front, the firm rewards 30 employees each year with $1,500 and an additional week of vacation each to be used to either “Live a Dream” by pursing a personal goal or interest or “Give a Dream” by giving back to the community. New moms can take advantage of a “gradual return to work program” and there’s a “pick your perk” benefit for west coast employees to invest in personal wellness.

Honorable mentions: Weber Shandwick, Cohn & Wolfe, APCO Worldwide, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
 

BEST MIDSIZE AGENCY TO WORK FOR: COYNE PR

Coyne PR’s positioning, “where you want to be,” is a pithy and direct statement of the firm’s longtime ambition to become a destination for both clients and talent, summed up in its mission: “Not to be the best agency in America, but the best one to work for. If we are the best place to work, we will get the best people. If we have the best people, we will get the best clients. If we have the best people and clients, how can we not be the best agency in America?”

Benefits include zero co-pays for doctor visits, a generous holiday schedule along with Paid Time Off, unlimited sick time and birthdays off, in addition to two volunteer days per year. There’s a formal management training program, plenty of opportunity for mid-level employees to share ideas with the leadership team, and internal and external classes focusing on management training, presentation skills and more. “Trust, truth and integrity are the cornerstone of this agency,” says one respondent to our survey. Adds another: “We really believe that values in business still matter. We live to do the right thing.”

Honorable mentions: M Booth, Finn Partners, Text 100, GCI Health
 

BEST SMALL AGENCY TO WORK FOR: REVIVEHEALTH

ReviveHealth’s values—“our employees are inspired to always be better and have fun in a work environment facilitated by diversity, respect, transparency, and authenticity,” the firm says—were created by the entire staff in 2009 and updated in 2014. Employees are review based on these values, and the firm twice yearly anonymous surveys for the staff to rate themselves, their peers, their manager, the executive group, and individual members of the leadership team on the same criteria, ensuring that “culture isn¹t just a thing we talk about, it¹s something we actively measure and manage.”

Beyond basic things like career ladders and individualized professional development plans, and an onboarding process that provides a mentor for everyone, there’s an emphasis on fun, from staff retreats to impromptu parties. “You are given the opportunity to grow however far you can go,” says one respondent. “There’s lots of leeway to be successful; it’s a great agency if you want to make your own way.” Adds another: “I love that our agency really empowers people to ‘own it’ and grow in their time here at Revive. Management is always open to ideas for how we can be better.”

Honorable mentions: Davies Public Affairs, Powermarketing, PAN Communications, rbb

BEST BOUTIQUE AGENCY TO WORK FOR: GROUNDFLOOR MEDIA

Denver-based GroundFloor Media is distinguished first and foremost by a commitment to community services that dates back to its founding—it gives the equivalent of approximately 15% of its annual revenues back to the community and employees can receive up to four hours of paid time off each month for volunteer work through the firm’s Get Grounded program —and has been expanded in the past 12 months to include a new primary charitable giving arm in 2015 called The Get Grounded Foundation that provides community grants.

But there’s also an acknowledgement that employees have lives outside the office and an understanding that treating them like adults will be rewarded, so GFMers can work at anytime from anywhere, and expectations in terms of billability are markedly different from industry averages (closer to 60% than 80%). “Our benefits are pretty unbelievable,” says one respondent. “We recently rolled out unlimited vacation and it is the greatest thing ever. The flexibility we are allowed is unreal. People are constantly amazed at the level of freedom.” No wonder the firm has been named one of the top five places to work in the US by Outside magazine and boasts an employee retention rate of around 95%.

Honorable mentions: Group Gordon, Walker Sands, Zapwater Communications, Allidura Consumer