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Office Redesign: Q&A with Monika Dixon Public Relations

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with publicist and entrepreneur Monika Dixon, to talk about her recent office redesign. Monika started her eponymous public relations firm in April 2012, just 10 years after moving to the United States from her native Poland. The PR powerhouse is operating quietly behind the scenes of some of Chicago’s most buzzed about restaurant openings, fashion events, and headline-grabbing parties and product launches. Her roster of clients includes everything from luxurious spas that transport you to another time and place to rising modern art virtuosos (one in particular whose work can be seen on the walls of Monika’s gorgeous River North office).  I sat down with her in her airy space, filled with natural light, to talk about how the redesign has helped boost her creativity and generated more harmony within her team.

Q: Your office is the perfect mix of cozy and sophisticated. What advice would you give boutique PR firms that want to bring home elements into their office space without losing their professionalism?

A: If you are a business owner who is looking at a potential office space, it’s never a bad idea to bring an interior designer with you. Professionals, like interior designer GregoryFear and Chicago artist Sarah Raskey, will see more in raw space and will understand how the space needs to be set up. If you already have a space, stay focused on your needs and bring in elements that you enjoy looking at. For example, coffee table books, candles and elements that inspire you. Do not go over the budget because it is so easy to do nowadays! Choose the right lay out and make sure that it reflects your personal style. It means everything to me that Whitney, Allison and Eva enjoy their working spaces and our office!

Q: Your office revamp is gorgeous! How do you feel the space has positively impacted your team?

A: I wanted my team to feel happy coming in to work every day. We spend many hours at the office and it’s usually a very quiet atmosphere. You would probably be surprised how quiet it is! Outside of client calls, and talking to our favorite writers, all we do is type away! Yet when the right time comes where you just came up with the best idea while collaborating with your colleagues, the room fills with laughter and joy! We also love the comfortable couches. They allow the girls to feel comfortable and provide the feeling of working from home.

I like to keep my team’s focus and enthusiasm at high levels. Highly motivated and positive coworkers are not only fun to be part of, but we also accomplish far more than teams that are struggling with morale.

As a business owner, I strive to build a positive team. We all also enjoy fashion and design. It was difficult to decide what our office should look like, but with the help of Gregory Fear, we accomplished this goal. Gregory helped us with the lay out and space development. He also incorporated our company’s colors into the office design. All of us were included in the design process, but Gregory truly took the lead. Thank you Gregory 🙂

Q: As a lifestyle PR practitioner, how do you feel this space impacts your clients when they enter the office?

A: To be honest, I started with how my employees feel about our space first. They spend most of their time at the office and I knew that once they were happy with the design our clients would be as well. Design has a profound effect — both consciously and subconsciously — as to what potential clients see and feel about the company they are being introduced to. The messages being sent are both hidden and overt. The company’s value system, history, solidity and stability are all being communicated in those few moments. I asked [a] few of our clients how they feel when they enter our office and most of them said peaceful, comfortable and ready to start the meeting!

Q: How have you found the office redesign to impact new prospects?

A: Potential clients are seeking not only an environment that communicates status and success, but one that suggests that the company’s executives know how to manage, and that they are in control of their clients and projects.

For better or worse, people make judgments based on what they see. Whether your company’s “good taste” emanates from the artwork, the furnishings or the colors, as long as it is present, your company will be perceived as having elevated sensibilities.  Elevated sensibilities are something most people relate to or at least like to think they relate to.  Design is one way of reaching out to make your potential clients identify with you.  You’ve got to make them feel that the company is composed of intelligent sensible people who have their finger on the pulse of what is going on.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of the new redesign? (e.g. piece of furniture, space, or change in the atmosphere, etc.?)

A: A client wants to see a controlled environment where the principals and staff have space to work well, to think, and to provide privacy for the clients they service. With that said, I love the new desk set up and our art wall! Sarah Raskey is such an incredible Chicago artist and we are thrilled to have her art at our office!

Instead of having a separate conference room, we opted for the conference table to be in the middle of the space. The team members are just close enough to overhear each other and share project ideas. When privacy is needed, it’s nice to be able to step into a private office as well.

Q: I noticed that your personal office is very minimal and pared down, do you feel this helps you be more creative? Does it help you maintain focus during your busy days?

A: That’s absolutely correct. I enjoy clean lines and modern design. Creativity comes from the written word, research and print. Honestly, I even dream in magazine pages. I guess that’s when you know you really love your job! I can recall certain articles by the color used on the page, year or its cover. I have a photographic memory. That’s probably why my personal space is so minimal.  I see color and ideas everywhere.

I do always try to have fresh flowers at my office. I enjoy taking care of them and they bring me joy.

Q: The press walls in your office are impressive! Why do you feel it is important for a PR firm to keep their wins front and center?

A: For trust to be communicated, the client must be comfortable with your decision-making ability. The environment must reflect your company’s investment “smarts” — and that gets played out very clearly in your presentation.

We’re also proud of every single press outlet that’s featured our clients. It’s even better than having a fresh box of Firecakes at the office (which happens quite often!).


Photo credit: Jackie Krupko

About Mischaela Advani

Mischaela Advani is a contributor to the Cision Blog, and works in Product Development at Cision. Outside of Cision she is on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Fashion Foundation and a committee member for the US National Committee for UN Women. She likes emerging technology, fashion, human rights advocacy, working on UN supported projects, and writing. Find her on Twitter @MischaelaAdvani.

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