The 30 Best Agencies to Work For: Part IV
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

The 30 Best Agencies to Work For: Part IV

Paul Holmes

23. (16) Dix & Eaton

Employee-owned Dix & Eaton promises “a working environment characterized by teamwork, collegiality and mutual respect; energizing and challenging assignments; learning development and professional growth opportunities; and an emphasis on ideas and performance over position and tenure.” The firm offers healthy profit sharing (30 to 40 percent of net profits distributed via bonuses) and provides employees with a nurturing (volunteerism and community involvement are encouraged), learning (the professional development programming is among the best in the business), but it’s the nature of the work and the chance to perform it alongside smart, thoughtful people that keeps people energized. “At the end of the day, you know you have made a contribution to client objectives, and have been intellectually challenged in the process,” says one admirer. Says another, “The people are extremely sharp, and the work is varied and challenging.”

24. (-) Horn Group

Horn Group took its share of hits during the technology slump, but it never wavered in its commitment to workplace excellence. Team HGI, a committee devoted to enhancing the culture and expanding the professional development efforts of the firm, continued to provide guidance and founder Sabrina Horn continued to respect the work-life balance needs of employees, particularly working mothers: the firm has several working moms who work on a part-time basis or from home. There’s a lot of appreciation for the effort management has made. “We have weathered the storm because of shrewd management and focus,” says one respondent. “Horn Group is a survivor where most independents have failed.” Another praises the “close. flat team environment with no politics; true empowerment; and a commitment to enabling work/life balance, particularly for mothers.”

25. (7) Text 100

Text 100 has a generous profit-sharing plan, good benefits including a dependant care flexible spending account, an impressive community involvement program, a work-life solutions program administered by Magellan Health, and an internal training program (Protocol U) that delivered more than 100 training sessions last year. But the most striking thing for an outside observer is the firm’s vacation policy: five weeks for first year employees, as well as two additional duvet days for mental health breaks. And the firm is serious about employees taking that time off, as a way to avoid burnout. But “what I truly love most about Text 100 is its people…. Although I work in the Rochester office, on a national and even global level, all the Texties I’ve met have that same something special.” Another says the “special culture spans the globe and knows no geographic boundaries. The people at the agency are more than co-workers; they are friends.”

26. (13) Edward Howard & Company

Edward Howard & Company has been an employee-owned company since the early 1960s, long before it became fashionable, and the employee ownership is reflected in several ways. The most obvious is the firm’s commitment to professional development, unparalleled among midsize firms—with more APRs than any other firm of its size and an EH & Co College that offers day-long training programs for every staff member twice a year. But what employees seem to appreciate most is the ethical approach to running a business. “We do the right thing: for our clients and for our own organization and staff,” says one respondent. Says another, “I get a really good feeling here because we walk away from engagements—even big name ones—when the client contacts either don’t treat us right or else ask us to do something we don’t feel right about.”

27. (-) Peppercom

While other dot-com agencies were flaming out, Peppercom was transforming itself into a broad-based business-to-business and corporate communications firm. That allowed it to maintain a distinctive culture that expects employees to work hard and play hard. The firm’s aptly (if not originally) named Fun Committee is charged “with making every employee feel that they can do great work but have some fun at the same time.” Events range from candy apple making on Hallowe’en to bring your kids to work day. At the same time, Peppercom State University has continued to expand, with programs dedicated to enhancing strategy, creativity, responsiveness and execution—all criteria on which the firm is judged by its clients. Peppercom “has the smartest and most creative staff I have ever been part of,” says one enthusiast. Adds another, “Management also takes employee concerns very seriously.”

28. (-) Access Communications

Can a firm provide great client service while treating its employees with care and respect? Apparently so. Access “seems to have found the balance between building a great work-life balance and a fun and challenging professional atmosphere for its employees,” raves one respondent. Says another, “The quality of work is very high and can be demanding, but never at the expense of an employee.” One trick: the firm developed an early warning system to determine the need for freelance help to relieve employees during unusually busy times. Other recent innovations include expanded professional development programming, morale-boosting events, and regular coffee sessions during which CEO Susan Butenhoff meets with employees in both offices on a one-on-one basis to encourage candid feedback.

29. (12) Carmichael Lynch Spong

There’s something hokey and, yes, Midwestern about Carmichael Lynch Spong’s workplace initiatives: the St. Patrick’s Day O’Gong show (a “talent” show at which senior staff are expected to embarrass themselves), the “dog daze” parade; an old-fashioned employee rewards program. But CLS has a serious commitment to building a great culture, offering flexible scheduling, paid maternity leave, and adoption assistance, and developing a training program, HeadRush, that provides customized training programs. Says one admirer, “Unlike other agencies that may shift priorities with the changing times and market, CLS remains committed to its three founding principles from 13 years ago. These are the foundation for decisions—what new business to pursue or pass on—and it helps all employees understand the firm’s direction and values.” Says another, CLS is “systemized, organized and streamlined like no other agency I have worked at.”

30. (5) Carter Ryley Thomas

“I have never worked with a more dedicated, supportive and ethical group of individuals,” says one respondent. Adds another, “I have never worked for an organization that supplies financial and organizational information and encourages people to learn all they can.” And another says, “We are encouraged to pursue our passions, to chase our dreams, to stand up for what we believe in and to make a difference.” A two-time winner of our Best Agency to Work For honor, Carter Ryley Thomas continues to offer telecommuting and job-share opportunities, as well as a Family Friendly Fund that helps employees deal with child and elder care issues, and a professional development program that includes creativity sessions and management training.


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