Best Places to Work 2019

For the seventh straight year, PRWeek asked employees what factors they considered most important to find the top small, midsize and large agencies, as well as in-house teams.

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PRWeek’s annual Best Places to Work initiative honors the top agencies and in-house teams that were ranked a cut above by their associates on important issues including workplace culture and salary.

SMALL AGENCY

Beehive agency

Beehive Strategic Communication
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Beehive sets out to make its mark on all employees from the day they join in an effort to retain them long term. The judges certainly saw that. "This is an environment where they truly invest in your success in every way — personally and professionally," one of them noted.

Beehive’s mentoring program, team-building exercises and clear team-building goals got top ratings from employees. "I’m always impressed with the ongoing investment and extreme relevance of the agency-development program," said one staffer.

A culture that "inspires and values well-being, creativity and growth" helps keep the firm’s staff turnover rate well below the industry average.

Beehive outperformed all other small agency entrants when it comes to promoting good work-life balance. Its health benefits programs, designed to address rising healthcare costs, won particular praise from staff and judges alike.

The agency has a reputation for recognizing good work and going the extra mile to make staffers feel appreciated.

"I was recently given an extra and generous budget to purchase an amazing gift for a direct report," shared one staffer. "She’s been doing a killer job and deserves something unexpected. It’s awesome to see the agency support that in this manner."

 

Cheer partners agency

Cheer Partners
Location: New York City

Cheer Partners knows something about connecting and engaging a workforce. The award-winning employee experience agency not only counsels its clients on best practices, it also follows its own advice on its home turf.

"We’re an internal communications organization and we happily act as guinea pigs for our clients," said one employee.

In addition to offering innovative perks such as pawternity leave, team members praise the agency for providing continual goal setting, feedback and review, an annual industry/educational events budget and multiple opportunities for department crossover.

"For a small company," added another staffer, "an incredible amount of resources are available to us."

Employees also praise the agency’s internal communications, transparency and accountability.

It may be a remote workplace, but employees ranked it No. 1 among small agencies for fostering collaboration. "Because we are a remote-based company, camaraderie takes a high priority. We meet annually in-person, conduct frequent virtual hangouts and foster cross-departmental and level relationships," explained one staffer.

Employee enthusiasm was not lost on the judges. One commented: "The agency has obviously created a one-of-a-kind culture of collaboration. It is leading the way on the remote-working model."

A peer-driven spot bonus program, weekly "high five" recognition, consistent annual reviews and highly rated benefits programs create an environment that makes employees feel valued.

 

EvolveMKD team photo

EvolveMKD
Location: New York City

EvolveMKD bills itself as having "an environment that fosters creativity and curiosity." Employee feedback validates the claim. Staffers gave the agency the highest marks for inspiring creativity and fostering collaboration and described the agency as "filled with dynamic pros who are inspired by creativity and driven by results" and a "great place to collaborate and really grow."

Workers value the agency’s "excellent training opportunities for personal and professional development" and say an annual budget for fitness expenses, unlimited vacation days, encouragement to travel and volunteer make them feel as though EvolveMKD "truly cares for its employees and wants to ensure that everyone always feels comfortable and happy at the company."

From multiple staff-training opportunities, engaging lunch and learns, paid college tuition and generous flex spending for health- and wellness-related costs, the firm ensures nothing gets in the way of employee creativity.

CEO Megan Driscoll was lauded by numerous team members for setting the tone for an agency that strives to make staffers’ entire lives optimal.

"Work-life balance is extremely important to our CEO," noted one employee. "Megan makes sure to communicate that to all of us — and to deliver on it."

Judges responded to the "strong praise for the female-led agency and a supportive, friendly work environment that makes EvolveMKD one of the best small agencies in the U.S."

 

Fish Consulting team photo

Fish Consulting
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

It’s all about culture at Fish Consulting. One judge highlighted the agency’s "energizing" mindset that encourages employees "to learn and try different things."

"Culture is a huge piece of working at Fish Consulting," agreed one employee. Staffers describe the workplace environment as a "fun, collaborative, people-focused culture, where team members respect one another and work together to accomplish our goals."

Employees clearly value the agency’s flexible hours and open-ended work-from-home policy as much as they appreciate its supportive growth environment. A clear path to senior-level positions, consistent access to executives and freedom to cross-train in other roles were mentioned by staffers as key benefits.

"At Fish, growth is only limited by the employee," explained a staffer. "The agency does everything in its power to work with each person and help them succeed."

Teamwork is particularly emphasized. "Each piece of business is supported by a well-rounded team, never just an individual," shared one staffer. "Employees are constantly collaborating and offering assistance whenever needed."

Fish’s management received high marks for its receptiveness to feedback and maintaining an open-door policy. Judges also praised the firm’s fun benefits and perks. As one judge summarized, "It’s clear Fish Consulting employees feel valued and excited to come to work."

 

MSSMedia team photo

MSSmedia
Location: Miami

Delivering on training and development for its staffers is a clear top priority for MSSmedia. From cross training within other departments to continuing education, the agency does a top-notch job of helping team members realize their potential. And those team members are happy to tell that story.

One employee listed travel to conferences, industry days, seminars and networking events as key benefits, while another said the agency has "always been the biggest supporter in my professional development." MSSmedia champions employee engagement outside of the office, too, through its staunch encouragement of volunteer work with local nonprofit organizations.

Employees surveyed by PRWeek applauded the firm’s open-door policy, collaborative environment and camaraderie.

"Management makes a point of taking time to do things as a team, such as a dinner or even a workout class during the day," noted one team member.

Judges certainly noticed. As one explained, "MSS is an agency where true collaboration takes place with an open, transparent environment."

Fun perks (happy hours, half days, a music and dog-friendly environment) combined with financial benefits (competitive salaries, commission checks, bonuses and recognition) were all cited as factors that help maintain a workplace that’s anything but commonplace.

Perhaps the best testament to any company’s environment is the willingness of a former employee to return. One such staffer commented, "I resigned and came back to work for MSSmedia because I love delivering excellent work for my clients in a happy environment."


MIDSIZE AGENCY

Highwire Group team photo

Highwire PR
Location: San Francisco

Employee feedback made it immediately clear to judges how proud the staff is of the firm’s high standards and how much they appreciate its open-door policy and approachable senior management. As one judge noted, "The balance is obvious at Highwire and that results in a high-growth agency."

Staffers highly regard the way the agency "prioritizes ongoing trainings and learning opportunities and provides financial support for networking opportunities." That commitment caused one staffer to call the firm’s employee training "the best I’ve ever seen in 20-plus years in the workforce."

"Career opportunities seem to be limitless at Highwire," added another employee. "We’re encouraged to chart our own path but also supported along the way."

Unique perks reinforce Highwire’s core life-learning and work-life balance values. A "curiosity benefit" provides $100 a year for books or other learning opportunities. A seven-year/seven-week sabbatical along with a five-year "free trip" that pays airfare and hotel for a week’s vacation offer employees time to recharge.

These benefits signal to employees that Highwire’s leaders "prioritize balance across the board," noticed one judge. Other much-loved perks include a health/gym benefit and donation match for charities.

Team members also respect Highwire’s strong diversity and inclusion program, praising it for "education opportunities and numerous encouraging ways to be inclusive (and feel included)."

 

Hotwire PR team photo

Hotwire
Location: New York City

Hotwire’s "Built With You" philosophy translates across all areas of its business. Employees overwhelmingly praised the agency’s "thoughtful working" approach that allows them to "work wherever they are most productive" and "provides flexibility, while maintaining accountability at all levels."

Keeping flexibility as its cornerstone enables the agency to attract and retain top talent. One employee commended a culture that "allowed me to continue doing the work that I’m most passionate about while still being able to grow and care for my family."

The flexible mindset extends to the agency’s Go Hotwire program, which encourages staffers to explore offices across the globe. "Hotwire’s global reach isn’t just a benefit to its clients," one judge observed, "but clearly a benefit that allows staff to work across offices and regions."

Judges and employees praised professional development programs that give team members "the tools to succeed and grow in their careers." The Hotwire Academy learning and development program received shoutouts from a number of staffers.

Unique benefits include a six-week paid sabbatical after four years at the company, a monthly wellness budget and a company-paid subscription to in-office meditation.

Team members report that clear requirements for next-level opportunities and the separation of performance reviews from career development helps employees take a long view of employment with the firm.

Hotwire provides "growth opportunities with a focus on treating our team as professionals who can build their career here," noted one staffer.


praytell agency

Praytell
Location: Brooklyn, New York

Praytell is the only agency that has been ever-present on the Best Places to Work list since 2014. The firm’s off-the-charts score for leadership receptiveness to its employees is key — from founder Andy Pray on down, the company maintains that "people-first" mindset at all times.

"Employees rave about the culture at Praytell," observed a judge. "The people, the culture and office environment make the agency stand out."

Staff overwhelmingly felt the firm genuinely supports professional development, especially for "skills that are new and different." They said working at Praytell offers a "clear path to success," as well as an "opportunity to explore individual passions." They also cited meaningful mentorship programs, regular reviews/manager feedback and an open line of communication to senior leadership as outstanding aspects of the workplace.

The agency has progressed from boutique to small to midsize and been acquired by independent agency network Project Worldwide in lightning-quick time, but employee engagement remains a priority. "Communication is very transparent," reported one staffer. "Management gives plenty of updates on the company’s performance."

Praytell demonstrates it "cares about employees holistically" with annual financial planning and life skills sessions, thoughtful and generous flex-work arrangements, unlimited vacation/sick days, pet insurance and wellness stipends for airfares, an Airbnb, Classpass or spa.

Judges lauded the firm’s annual retreat, Camp Praytell, for reinforcing that sentiment. "You see the great sense of purpose and belonging among staffers," said one. "Praytell is a clear supporter and cheerleader for its employees."

See photos and video from our visit to the Praytell offices here.

 

Rogers & Cowan team photo

Rogers & Cowan
Location: Los Angeles

Rogers & Cowan has built a "great reputation for work-life balance," noted one judge. Ensuring that employees aren’t overwhelmed not only makes for a contented staff, it also "results in the sharpest professional attitude," commented one team member.

Employees called management a "team-oriented group of all-stars" that remains transparent, especially when it comes to letting staffers know what it takes to advance within the agency.

"There is genuine interest in seeing each member of the team grow and exceed," added one employee. "This is conveyed at every possible opportunity, through the work environment, the culture and company-wide business decisions."

The agency’s commitment to professional development came through in the high scores it was given by employees on providing career-building tools and opportunities. When asked to rate Rogers & Cowan on the consistency and helpfulness of its performance reviews, most staffers gave the firm a perfect score.

Management also gets high marks on recognizing employees for quality results and top performance and rewarding staffers financially for a job well done. A generous 401(k) contribution plan, share-purchase program and flexible spending accounts are some of the benefits employees can take to the bank.

The firm’s commitment to promoting an inclusive and diverse team was also noticed. "That commitment makes it rather unique among many agencies of its size," said one judge.

 

Shadow agency team photo

Shadow
Location: Los Angeles, Miami, New York

Transparency and training are hallmarks of Shadow. Staffers appreciate the "open door policy, where employees of any level are welcome and encouraged to talk, collaborate and share ideas."

Judges praised the firm for being a model of flat organization. "Employee feedback reinforced Shadow’s transparent culture where senior and junior-level employees collaborate on all agency activities," observed one judge. "It’s refreshing to see how high morale can be if senior leadership provides the support structure to its junior team."

Professional success and growth are stressed at the agency, which has many programs to support development. One judge described Shadow as "an agency where growth opportunities are endless and teamwork makes it happen."

A firm with a reputation for treating team members well, partners "strive to keep top-performing employees, even if that means allowing them to work in other departments," noted one staffer.

One judge noted that "while Shadow aims to be at the cutting edge of PR, the family like environment keeps employees committed to the team for the long term."

Shadow employees have the opportunity to work remotely, receive commissions for signing new business and enjoy a generous vacation package. "Performance and yearly bonuses are frequent and our vacation plan and perks are very robust," raved a team member.


LARGE AGENCY

Allison+Partners agency

Allison+Partners
Location: San Francisco

Having made the Best Places to Work list for a third year in a row, Allison+Partners’ commitment to retaining its people-focused culture as it grows stands out. The firm’s turnover rate is far lower than the industry average.

Judges clearly identified it as an "agency where you can learn, grow and be recognized." From extensive learning resources to constant access to leadership, the firm provides excellent advancement opportunities.

Team members highlighted the educational webinars, outside-training reimbursement, mentorship programs and unique Women’s Leadership Program as tools it provides to help develop employees.

"Allison+Partners really invests in its employees’ growth," noted one staffer. "It offers numerous opportunities for us to gain knowledge and skills in order to grow."

The firm also scored high marks for maintaining a culture that "encourages disconnecting, covering for each other, working from home when needed and setting reasonable expectations for after-hours communications," as one employee pointed out.

In addition to spot bonuses and employee-recognition programs, the firm rewards its people with a number of unique benefits, including sabbaticals and global exchanges. The perks "helped retain top talent as the agency has grown," one judge noted.

Allison+Partners maintains its collegial environment with regular office-wide brainstorming sessions, outings and events and team volunteer days. All of the elements add up to a workplace employees described as "very supportive" and "truly collaborative."

 

Hill+Knowlton strategies team photo

Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Location: New York City

Caring, collaborative and fun is how staffers describe the culture at this firm, which won much praise for treating employees well and providing them with ample opportunities to thrive.

"Hill+Knowlton Strategies fosters growth from the bottom to the top," observed one staffer. Another remarked, "Employee development sets H+K apart. We have formal trainings, mentorship programs, cross-office/cross-border opportunities and full access to everyone in leadership."

A number of respondents gave a shoutout to the firm’s female-specific mentorship program, which allows women to seek and provide guidance for fellow employees in the network. It’s no surprise the agency received perfect marks for providing women an opportunity to advance to senior roles.

The firm’s emphasis on employee wellness also stood out for helping people at all levels do their best work.

"It’s clear executive leadership at H+K values its employees and leads by example," one judge said. Meanwhile, staffers applauded the firm’s paid sabbatical program, three-month scholarships to other countries and its generous 16-week paid maternity/paternity leave.

Good internal communications is the glue that helps employees regard the H+K workplace as a caring environment — a place where "we win together," as one employee observed.

 

Porter Novelli team photo

Porter Novelli
Location: New York City

Judges and staffers were wowed by Porter Novelli’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and purpose-driven work. Employees gave the agency top marks for philanthropy efforts, involvement in communities and making a positive social impact. One staffer praised the agency for encouraging employees to "invest our time to make a difference by giving back to our communities."

The firm is also committed to making its in-house world a better place. "Porter Novelli’s commitment to CSR is evident across the work it does for its clients and the benefits it offers its employees," one judge commented.

Staffers love the firm’s Uncommon Ground learning and development platform, flexibility to work from home, fitness reimbursement and family care time. "Leadership cares about grooming talent and helping all employees find opportunities to grow and develop in their careers," noted one team member.

Porter puts a premium on creating an environment that makes employees feel valued and appreciated. Judges remarked on the agency’s "inclusive environment with good camaraderie and energy" and staffers agree. Team members described the firm as a place where "respect and empathy are built into the culture" and praised its "dedication to supporting the LGBTQ community."

The agency’s commitment to living its purpose-driven philosophy resonated with its team, too. "The company’s direction of helping companies live in their purpose is aspirational," shared a staffer.

 

W2O Group agency photo

W2O
Location: San Francisco

Collaboration and creativity are celebrated at this healthcare comms powerhouse. From the layout of offices to meaningful group programs, team engagement to collaborative new business opportunities, W2O provides myriad ways to encourage employees to work together, highlighting its agency motto of #OneTeamOneDream.

"Many employees commented on the culture of collaboration present at W2O," observed one judge. "There are clear opportunities for advancement internally and less emphasis is placed on hierarchy than at other agencies of a similar size."

Employees concur. "Leadership does a great job at fostering a corporate culture while allowing individual office cultures to drive day-to-day work," noted one staffer.

Creativity is also prized at the firm. "W2O is a spirited, fast-paced organization that is on a high growth trajectory," said one employee. "We are evolving to be the agency of the future."

To keep the creative juices flowing, team members are entitled to a five-week paid sabbatical after five years at the company, as well as a Fourth Trimester Return-From-Maternity leave program with personalized coaching upon return. A number of respondents specifically called out the programs, with one calling the sabbatical opportunity "a tremendous benefit and motivator."


BEST IN-HOUSE AGENCY

bayer team photo

Bayer
Location: Whippany, New Jersey

Even in a challenging year when the company was digesting a major acquisition and responding to an onslaught of legal action, team members gave their workplace high ratings across all categories. Judges were impressed, thus placing Bayer on this list for a second consecutive year.

"It has been a trying year for Bayer, but the challenges seem to have only brought the team closer together," noted one judge. "Many employees commented that the team felt like a family where creativity and innovation are encouraged."

Overall, staffers viewed the recent acquisition of Monsanto as an opportunity to further develop their communications skills in new ways.

"The largest acquisition in our company’s history has led to development experiences and once-in-a-career opportunities to drive employee awareness, understanding and buy-in," explained one team member.

One staffer was particularly proud that "communications has been a clear and constant beacon during a remarkably dynamic time." Another added, "We’re shaping our future company and that is exciting."

Perks and professional development opportunities received high marks across the board. A number of staffers noted the company’s unique Better Because of You program, which recognizes good work and gives employees the choice between gift cards, merchandise or cash as a reward.

 

Cisco comms team photo

Cisco
Location: San Jose, California

Corporate social responsibility is front and center for Cisco. Employees overwhelmingly viewed the company as transparent, philanthropic, dedicated to a sustainable environment and people-centric.

"Flexibility to work from home, unique benefits and transparent communication from executive leadership contributed to making Cisco one of the best places to work," noted one judge. Cisco Beat, the company’s monthly live-streamed show, helps ensure that "access to leaders is unparalleled, while communications is open and transparent," said one staffer.

Employees commended the company’s Time2Give program, which offers employees 40 hours paid time off per year to volunteer. "Cisco empowers employees to reach higher," added one team member, "not only in their careers but also in helping make the world a better place."

Unique benefits, including grandparent parental leave and paid financial guidance, as well as rich employee-development programs, also won praise from team members and judges alike.

"Cisco Learning Labs are available year-round to offer guidance on everything from better security habits to how to lead and be a mentor," shared one staffer.

Creativity is also prized at Cisco and the term surfaced frequently among employee responses.

 

etsy team photo

Etsy
Location: Brooklyn, New York

"Small but mighty" is how one judge described crafty e-commerce company Etsy. The lean communications department is checking all the right boxes when it comes to employee satisfaction.

"Scores were high across all categories, including diversity and inclusion and employee satisfaction," commented one judge.

Despite its smaller scale, Etsy offers employees six months of gender-blind parental leave and covers 100% of employee medical costs — generous benefits that generate tremendous team loyalty. The company also offers regular team offsites, an abundance of leadership training and clear competencies to help grow employees’ careers.

"Etsy invests heavily in our well-being and has a fantastic work environment," shared one staffer.

The company also takes a fun approach with internal communications. The weekly This Weeksy newsletter gets staffers in the groove each Monday morning, while shared goals keep cross-functional collaboration flowing seamlessly.

Staffers also seem motivated by the company’s foundational purpose. Meanwhile, judges lauded the tight-knit communications group as "a lean team that isn’t afraid to push the envelope to keep the mission of human commerce alive."

 

Mickey Mouse at Disney World

The Walt Disney Company
Location: Burbank, California

Disneyland is commonly known as "The Happiest Place On Earth." The responses shared by the communication team show a department that follows suit. "It became clear very quickly that Disney is a wonderful organization to work for across all levels and divisions," observed one judge.

Robust internal comms won raves from employees and judges, who said that in addition to an effective internal website and regular events to promote employee engagement, the company continues to find new outlets for communicating with team members.

"Disney constantly tries to develop new ways to reach employees, from expanded and creative news emails to a centralized, informative hub," shared one staffer.

Regular meetings with various teams comprised of representatives across multiple levels of the company provide ample opportunities for staffers to work together and stay informed. One judge noted that a focus on consistent communications "leads to a team of dedicated, creative communicators who are encouraged to stretch their skills and know that senior management has their backs."

Staffers also gave the company high grades for C-suite involvement in the function, while emphasizing just how serious it is about the importance of PR.

Disney creates workplace magic by incentivizing performance through promotions and bonus programs, providing excellent benefits and giving employees the tools to promote a good work-life balance. "Disney has its priorities in order," noted one staffer. "It takes care of its employees while being a leader in the industry."

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