Over the holidays, we moved into what I have been calling our “grown up office.” Silly as it sounds, our new space on Kirby is a major upgrade from our home for four years at Vine Street Studios and something I am extremely excited about and proud of. While our former building was a perfect place to build and establish our base as a growing public relations agency (fellow entrepreneurs looking for office space, I do recommend it!), it was time to move to a space that did not have loose wires all over the place, a conference room that echoes or smelly pipes after it rains.
There was some debate as I was looking for new space whether we should keep the open desk environment or go more “old school” with cubes and offices. After reading this article in the New Yorker about “The Open Office Trap” I was really questioning myself, which said that “though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.” YIKES. That is the complete opposite of what I always believed about the open office environment. That is completely contradicting everything we are striving for at this progressive, creative agency!
Ultimately, I decided that keeping our account execs in an open environment was the best way to make sure that our Integrate culture continued. We pride ourselves on our ability to cohesively work together, seamlessly “integrating” public relations strategies with social media tactics. Managers do have their own offices so that we can have private conversations as needed with our teams, and sometimes we do need to close the door to be able to focus on a proposal, editing a press release or creating a strategy document for a client. But the open environment continues at Integrate, for now.
My hands-down, favorite story that happened at IPR a few years ago couldn’t have taken place if we were separated in offices.
Excuse me if you’ve heard it before…
A YouTube video about a nine-year-old girl at New Caney ISD whose mother was fighting for her right to use a walker at school made its way to the desk of an Integrate Public Relations social media account executive who works on a client that helps kids and adults with developmental disabilities – Easter Seals Greater Houston. With less than 500 views on YouTube, the Integrate Public Relations employee posted the video to the Easter Seals Facebook page with the intention of bringing some awareness to this injustice, as well as sharing an example of where Easter Seals Greater Houston might be able to intervene. Within minutes, there were over 50 comments.
Integrate Public Relations is intentionally laid out in an open working environment, so the rest of the team immediately heard the buzz about this quick response on Facebook. The Public Relations team – working across the room from the Social Media team – saw the story garnering an unprecedented amount of attention in the community, and thought it would be a good idea to reach out to the local news desks to tell them about the emerging story and see if they were interested in talking with the staff at Easter Seals Greater Houston.
Within two hours, Easter Seals Greater Houston CEO, Elise Hough, and Development Director, Kelly Klein, were on separate sides of town filming interviews with Fox 26 and KPRC Local 2 regarding this issue. In addition to both news stations covering the story during their primetime evening news broadcasts, KHOU 11 also picked up the segment and aired the story. The next day, the segments were posted on the Easter Seals Greater Houston Facebook wall, enticing residents of the Greater Houston area to proactively reach out to Easter Seals as a source for developing news on the story. The story was then covered nationally on the Huffington Post, which ultimately resulted in an online petition for rights for this child, as well as a stronger Easter Seals brand as a national advocate for those with disabilities.
This collaborative environment and integrated approach to today’s communication environment is truly the essence of Integrate Public Relations.
Our new building, located at 3801 Kirby, is under construction for the next 6 months as they upgrade the exterior and amenity spaces. We’re going to wait for this project to be complete before having a real open house and inviting everyone over for a party but that being said, we would love to have you come by and visit us, anytime!