Building a great workplace culture—diverse and inclusive, flexible enough to accommodate a continuum of home-office preferences, devoid of the obstacles that continue to hinder the advancement of women—has never been more critical than it is today. 

In 2020, public relations agency leaders faced a challenge unlike anything they had experienced in the past: the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown meant that PR professionals were almost all working from home. For some employers this meant an uncomfortable loss of control, for almost all of them, it meant that maintaining a cohesive and collaborative culture was more difficult in the absence of normal social interactions.

Then, in midyear, agencies were forced to confront another issue—one that had been on radar screens for decades but which took on new urgency as the Black Lives Matter protests—triggered by the George Floyd murder—turned an uncomfortable spotlight on institutional racism and forced corporate America to acknowledge that whatever meager progress it had made with diversity and inclusion was woefully insufficient.

For the PR industry in particular, this is an existential challenge: to create marketing campaigns that reach all Americans, agencies need to look more like all America; the same is true whether the audience is a diverse employee population, communities of color, or specific marginalized populations too long neglected.

Most public relations agencies were still struggling to cope with these challenges in 2021, and if they had hoped that the return of workers to the office would simplify things, their optimism was soon dashed. Instead, what some called the “return to work” (though few if any had seen their workload reduced) created new challenges.

The Great Resignation reflected a long-simmering discontent on the part of employees who felt under-valued (ordinary worker salaries have lagged behind that of senior executives, shareholder dividends and the rate of inflation for far too long); a lack of autonomy (which many had tasted during work-from-home); and general disrespect. In November of 2021 the national “quit rate” reached an all-time high.

The public relations agency business was not immune from any of this.

And it was against that backdrop that our Best Agencies to Work For survey went into the field earlier this year. At a time when attracting, developing and retaining the best possible talent has never been more critical, when being able to credibly market your firm to prospective new hires as an employer-of-choice is more valuable than ever, dozens of agencies competed for our Best Agencies to Work For honors.

Today we are announcing five winners:
Best Large Agency to Work For: Zeno Group
Best Midsize Agency to Work For: MSL
Best Small Agency to Work For: Highwire
Best Boutique Agency to Work For: Davies
Best Micro-Boutique Agency to Work For: Craft Public Relations

Full analysis of each winner, including employee feedback and cultural highlights can be found here. 

These five Best Agencies to Work For will be presented with their trophies at the 2022 North American SABRE Awards dinner, which takes place at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 4. Tables and tickets are available now.

The overall Best Agency to Work For 2022—the outstanding workplace from among these five finalists—will be announced at the dinner.