Boston Business Journal: PR Firms Can’t be Best Places to Work

By Scott Signore

As a three-time recipient of a “Best Place to Work” in Boston award from the Boston Business Journal, a distinction I’m proud of for obvious reasons, I was puzzled to learn that in 2014 public relations firms like Matter Communications will no longer be able to submit. Those days are over. Here is the explanation sent to our agency by BBJ publisher Chris McIntosh:

I’ve decided to change the structure of the BPTW event this year given the general make-up of the small company category, some disqualifications for cheating, near-perfect scoring, and the sheer number of submissions from PR firms. No one industry can dominate a category. Hope this helps you understand …

I share these comments from Chris not because of any ill will toward the BBJ (a publication we love and regularly work with on behalf of our clients), but rather because the content of the message is deeply troubling for the PR industry in Boston. The award criteria states explicitly that staffers are to vote anonymously, without coaxing or cajoling from management. Yes, it’s okay to urge everyone to complete the online form, but it’s strictly forbidden to tell people how to vote.

So, to the PR firms who actively and deliberately gamed the system, I say: have you no shame? Is winning an award worth selling your soul?

To be clear, I’m well aware of the importance of winning a Best Place to Work award, particularly in a hot PR market like Boston. Attracting PR talent is a full-time job for most firms like Matter, and accolades from the BBJ can go a long way toward edging out competitors on the talent acquisition front. But in my view collecting an award you didn’t earn to entice PR pros under false pretenses is an extremely underhanded business practice – a house of cards built on a bed of lies. It gives the whole Boston PR industry a black eye.

Matter will sit on the sidelines moving forward, but we’ll continue to cheer on Boston-area companies whose people genuinely value their places of employment. Meanwhile, I hope my peers in the Boston PR industry will join me in strongly condemning the actions of firms that quashed this cherished opportunity for the rest of us.

And to Chris McIntosh and the BBJ: we’re disappointed in your decision, but naturally we understand and respect it. That said, I’m hopeful you’ll revisit the idea of including PR firms in the future. There are many fine PR agencies in the Boston area, all of whom would appreciate another shot.