2017 Best PR Agencies to Work For, North America | Holmes Report


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The Holmes Report’s Best Agencies to Work For are determined by a comprehensive survey of agency employees at more than 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. For more information on the methodology — and how you can order your own agency's results — visit this section's About/FAQ page. The top winner in each category was recognized at the 2017 North American SABRE Awards, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 2.

1. GCI Health (WPP)

GCI Healthwas last year’s finalist and, now, this year’s winner for creating a culture and structure that is entrepreneurial, flexible and nimble. There are a few ways the 120-person shop achieves this — for one, making sure employees are not overworked.

From telecommuting to accommodating flexible work schedules to summer Fridays, there's constant surveillance to make sure employees are engaged and growing, not quietly burning out. New hires are also paired a “buddy” to help them get acclimated. CEO Wendy Lund has monthly lunches with VPs and SVPs to get to know them, ensure career development and hear about their wishes and dreams.

The healthcare-focused agency also has numerous initiatives to designed to encourage engagement within the agency and beyond. “Do Something Different in Our Communities” is an agency-organized volunteer event for several charities throughout the year. In London Exchange, London and US employees have the opportunity to practice their pitch and PowerPoint skills and sell senior management on why they should be chosen for an all-expense paid opportunity to “trade seats” with their colleague across the pond to expand their global mindset. “Take a Break from March Madness” is a month-long competition to foster employee engagement where account teams compete against each other on "flawless execution, superb counsel, organic growth, client recognition and of course creativity and enthusiasm." Summer Lovin’ includes surprise breaks, meals, snacks, drinks, raffles, perks and parties throughout the summer.

The firm has also introduced a new business “boot camp” is designed to elevate everyone’s comfort with – and love for – new business and introduce its formal methodology and resources by running mock pitches for all levels of staff. The “Great Coaching Initiative” is part of our mentorship program that teams up mentors (“coaches”) and mentees (“players”) based on job level, personal and professional interests.

Eight of 10 senior managers at GCI have been with the agency from six to 23 years.

2. PAN Communications (Independent)

A strong culture is built over time — and PAN has proven its commitment to this. The tech-focused agency lands its third consecutive showing on our Best Agencies to Work For by providing its people with interesting and challenging work, comprehensive benefit packages, competitive compensation and an appreciation for work-life balance.

In the past year, the 100-person agency hired 30+ new employees and consistently promotes staff at every level from intern all the way to SVP. In fact, promoting employees when they’re ready — rather than waiting for the next review cycle — is part of PAN’s culture of recognition. Employees are also assigned a dedicated VP who oversees their growth and development, meets with them one-on-one every month, manages their comprehensive annual review and generally serves as a mentor.

Time-off includes at least 15 paid days (including an agency-wide shutdown between Christmas and New Years), plus 10 paid holidays, one floating holiday, employee’s birthday off, 8 hours of volunteer time, and 9 sick days per year. “Our HR department is always on top of the most recent, verified industry benchmarks and surveys to ensure we are offering highly competitive compensation and rewarding excellence accordingly,” says president/CEO Phil Nardone.

The firm’s culture is casual — jeans, PAN-branded Patagonia sweaters, Fitbits for all and opportunities for extra cash via new business and employee referral programs. Efforts are made to clear out the office by 6pm, this bumps to 1pm on Summer Fridays and 3:30pm on other Fridays throughout the year.

Ultimately, Nardone looks to create a “culture of celebration, collaboration and recognition” that’s amplified with "a monthly leadership award, weekly Hit of the Week and PANtastic awards, and constant kudos and cheers for a job well-done."

3. LaunchSquad (Independent)

For 17 years, LaunchSquad has been servicing the tech sector with a drive towards engagement, creation and influence. The 120-person shop has continued to thrive for nearly two decades by prioritizing the well-being of its employees. In 2016, the firm launched a new employee engagement program that pairs entry-level employees with a senior leader to develop a customized plan surrounding individual career goals and growth. LaunchSquad also rolled out a $1500/year travel stipend for tenured employees to use on vacation to further encourage them to take time to relax and enjoy time away from the office. In addition, ‘Coaching the Coaches’ is a series of in-depth training sessions that equips senior employees with effective methods to mentor junior employees. The firm also doubled its wellness stipend that provides employees with an allowance for health, fitness or wellness-related expenses.

Like many firms in the last year, LaunchSquad updated its parental leave policy and now affords birth mothers 14 weeks of 100% pay and partners/adoptive parents are guaranteed six weeks at 100% pay and job protection. On top of this, LaunchSquad added increased flexibility for employees to work remotely, part-time or at different offices in order to accommodate employee lifestyles and/or personal challenges.

4. Racepoint (Independent)

It’s been several years now since Larry Weber’s Racepoint Global and the Digital Influence Group combined into one organization. The combined entity makes its first showing on this list with plenty to support its culture of influence and action. Its Social Good Program is a three-tier initiative that encourages employees to volunteer, donate and utilize their resources to enhance and revive their local communities. The US Offices participate in local coat drives, food pantries, school supplies/backpacks for back to school, and holiday giving drives.

The RPG Wellness program helps employees discover all the aspects that make up wellness (physical, mental, spiritual), hoping to find a balance in individual’s lives to be more relaxed and focused in and out of the office. The agency has theme months (nutrition, eating locally, outdoor exercise, meditation) and office events such as yoga and chair massage. An informal mentoring program is offered to ensure daily coaching, career development and knowledge sharing across the agency. Every employee is encouraged to enroll and choose a mentor from a list of leaders from any of its offices. Every quarter an employee from any of Racepoint’s international offices is chosen to spend a week working from a different location.

The Learning & Development program provides employees with the training to become industry leaders, including internal and external seminars, webinars and events to enhance employee’s skill sets. Racepoint Global’s 2017 Management Development Program is a global, unified approach to developing the firm’s managers. This program focuses on five core competencies that are the basis for managers to engage, inspire, develop and lead a team of exceptional professionals.

Racepoint also sponsors a Tuition Reimbursement Program that supports employees in  pursuing a part-time course of study towards certain work-related degree or certificate programs.

5. Havas Formula (Havas)

Since being acquired by Havas in 2014, the former Formula PR seems to have hit a new stride when it comes to its work, growth and culture, as it makes its debut on our Best Agencies to Work For list. The firm has just under 125 employees that benefit from a variety of initiatives designed to engage, attract and retain top talent. For instance, Havas University includes monthly in-office classes with topics that range from writing skills, creativity, brainstorming, business etiquette, speaking/presenting, among others. The firm also offers a Media Bootcamp designed to to develop junior practitioners’ media relations skills, practice live pitching and pairs them with a senior mentor/media coach.

It’s not just junior employees that benefit from extensive training. The biannual training program (occurring in March and October) provides senior members with the tools necessary to lead a division one day. The bicoastal, day-long meetings feature educational sessions and open dialog to empower participants to become better leaders, account managers and problem solvers. There’s also quarterly HR training for all new account executives to educate them on various staff management topics, such as interviewing tips, developing employees, conducting performance evaluations.

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Coming in May 2017