Best Large Agency to Work For: Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

The third largest independent in the US market, Waggener Edstrom has around 800 employees and has long prided itself on its ability to attract and retain top talent, having been named Best Large Agency to Work For in North America by this publication more times than any other firm. Says one survey respondent, “WE puts its employees first. Management and colleagues always have each other's backs, no matter what the circumstances are. WE also has a strong emphasis on creating your own work-life balance and the agency respects each individual's ‘place’ in life.” A recent addition to the team adds: “I have only been at the agency for a month and I am just blown away by the amount of time and energy that is invested in the employees here. Everyone sticks around forever because it is a truly great place to be. I am approached as a partner by not only my boss and team members but even people on other teams!”

The formula success includes a well-rounded approach to talent acquisition (including heavy social media usage); a paid internship program; robust benefits (a 401k with employer match, reimbursement for mobile and internet usage, AAA membership, even pet and nanny services); a professional development program that includes more than 250 trainings (employees completed 9,000 hours last year) and a Leadership Forum developing future leaders; a commitment to diversity including support for the Lagrant Foundation; and a corporate citizenship program that encourages employees to donate 16 hours volunteer time a year and gives back 1 percent of fee income to in pro bono work and donations.

Honorable mentions: GolinHarris, Edelman, Weber Shandwick, APCO

Best Midsize Agency to Work For: Text 100

Text 100 is a firm that has figured out how to balance the best characteristics of a truly global agency—interesting work for major clients and the opportunity to work in overseas markets and explore new cultures—with the benefits of a boutique: the absence of bureaucracy, a culture of collaboration, and individual empowerment. The firm is a role model when it comes to work-life balance (five weeks of vacation after one year, duvet days and floating holidays, health and domestic partner benefits, flexible work schedules and more). It offers 36 training sessions a year, along with a Career Navigator service that provides individual development plans. And it is committed to community service, supporting a wide range of causes, from Cradles to Crayons to the Gay Men’s Health Clinic. Multiple respondents cite a “work hard play hard culture, “ and one goes on to explain: “My favorite things about Text 100 are our open work environment, open communication, innovative and creative strategies and spirited digital culture.”

Honorable mentions: Allison+Partners, Jackson Spalding, Padilla Speer Beardsley, Coyne PR

Best Small Agency to Work For: rbb Public Relations

rbb's success is built on its employee-driven workplace. Managing Partner Christine Barney explains: “We say, give people the freedom to create their own work plans and environments and clients will stay, more clients will come and everyone will make money.” If that sounds too simple to be true, consider the fact that the average tenure for both staff and clients remains an even 8.5 years. Every staff member, down to the bookkeeper, can determine his/her own work schedule, and choose the location where work will be done. And employees get to make other critical decisions too: each employee belongs to one of four operational groups: rbbWorks (operations), rbb U (professional development), rbb Extras (team building) and rbb News (firm marketing). Employees create the annual plans, budgets and staffing charts for each group and are responsible for achieving the goals they set. Then, they get a share in the profits just like the owners. “I have the freedom to choose when, where and how to do my work,” is one typical comment. “They trust me and treat me like an adult.”

Honorable mentions: Davies, 360 Public Relations CooperKatz & Company, Gagen MacDonald

Best Boutique Agency to Work For: Revive

One challenge for all firms with looking to build a strong culture is that strong cultures are by definition not for everyone, and those who don’t fit can quickly become disillusioned and disgruntled. Healthcare PR specialist Revive tackles that problem head-on by screening potential employees for the qualities it values: character, integrity, sense of humor, intelligence, healthcare industry knowledge, and more than anything a sense of dedication. “Working at Revive is really more than a job,” says founder Brandon Edwards, “so if people are looking for one of those, we want them to keep looking.” The work environment is flexible and tailored to individual needs, internal communication is unusually open, and many employees bring their kids and even their dogs to the office on occasion. Says one respondent: “As an agency we took the time to sit down and write out our cultural values. Now, it goes in to everything we do from client service to the way we interact with each other. By living those value every day—and holding each other to them—we're able to be the type of agency we want to be no matter how big we grow.”

Honorable mentions: GroundFloor Media, Group Gordon, Bateman Group, Trevellino/Keller