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Many times, the people that work behind the scenes making the scene rarely get recognized for their work. SociaLifeChicago will spotlight the amazing people that make you, your organization and your event look great.

Jenn Lake, Vice President Zapwater Communications

What was your first job PR job?
My first job was at Murphy Knott Public Relations. I interned at MKPR throughout college and was offered an Account Executive position there during the first semester of my senior year. Graduating with an offer on the table was a wonderful blessing. Once on board, I worked on several accounts such as General Growth Properties (Northbrook Court), SEE Eyewear, Stefanel and Vidal Sassoon. My boss at the time, Lynda Knott, was the epitome of style, grace and leadership. To this day, I’m grateful for what she taught me. I went on to work at Skirt PR as Vice President and loved my time there. Like Lynda, Adrienne Eckert Petersen was a wonderful person to work with and I adored my team there. Now, I’m at Zapwater and couldn’t be happier. Our President, David Zapata, quickly became a wonderful mentor and professional confidant.

Did you start off knowing you want to work in PR?
I always knew that I wanted to work in PR. As an ENFP (Myers Briggs Personality Indicator) my personality and talents align with this industry; working with people and developing innovative ideas are two things I love most. In addition, my brother worked in the PR department for the Chicago Fire. He taught me a lot about the industry, how to stand out and make an impact for clients. I went on to major in Public Relations at Valparaiso University and can’t say enough wonderful things about their communications program. Valpo gave me the necessary tools to succeed in this industry.

Take me behind the scenes, a week leading up to the event before executing an event or brand activation
Zapwater is a strategic and aggressive agency. We are extremely detail-oriented and offer clear goals, tasks and objectives for every step we take. Due to our approach, clients find that event plans and execution consistently exceed their expectations from conception to completion.

The week before the event or activation is where we dot every “i” and cross every “t” in our plan. Things  come up last-minute but, as event planners, you must expect the unexpected. It’s our job is to attend to those last-minute situations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Consider it grace under fire!

How much does creativity factor into performing your role?
Zapwater prides itself on an innovative approach. However, creativity for the sake of creativity can be a waste of the client’s money. Innovation is an important tool used to reach a client’s end goal. We believe creativity can often be measured and we develop concepts with that in mind for every brand with whom we work.

How do you go about developing concepts?
The intersection between intuition and research is where brilliant concepts can be found. For me, a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is the perfect starting point. By performing one, you create a strong knowledge base for the brands you are working with: what they’ve already done, what they’ve accomplished, how they’ve measured success, problem areas and opportunities for growth. Research can only take you so far – then it’s up to the team to brainstorm innovative concepts to be used as the foundation for the campaign.

You must learn from your past. Once the lessons are learned, never look back.

How has relationship building helped steer your career path?
Relationships are everything in this business! A publicist is only as strong as their internal rolodex. Tending to and maintaining those relationships is incredibly important. At the same time, I strongly believe in open, honest communication. Trust is built on transparency.

Are you from Chicago?
Yes, I grew up in Glenview, a north shore suburb of Chicago. I have great memories here. It’s one of the reasons why I love this city so much!

Advice that someone has given you that’s helped you thus far?
Advice comes in big and small forms. It’s important to be open to both! Something that I learned long ago is simple but cogent: If your desk is a mess, chances are you are too. Most of the time, your surroundings are a reflection of who you are and how you feel. I believe that if your space is organized, you feel better about yourself and think more clearly. If it’s disheveled – you’re probably feeling overwhelmed.

Another mentor told me that while PR is a verbal and written communications-focused industry, you learn a lot more from non-verbal communication. What people don’t say or write is often much more telling.

Outside of work what do you do for fun?
My husband jokes that I’m a “live to work” kind of woman. But outside of work (and when time permits), I love spending time with him. He’s amazing and supportive of Zapwater and my career. Other things that I love are domestic and international travel and collecting vintage couture and accessories. April Francis of The Haute Closet introduced me to Lulu’s at the Belle Kay (Laurie Davis’ store), a gem for vintage accessories. I also can’t get enough of Leslie Hindman Auctioneer’s auctions.

If you could give someone looking to follow your career path advice what would you tell them?
You need to work harder and smarter than everyone else. Many people work very hard but they don’t spend time in the right areas. You can spend a lot of hours in the office but if you’re not using them efficiently you aren’t helping anyone, especially clients.

Another lesson is to not step over someone else or burn bridges in order to be successful. Chicago is the best city in the world but it’s a close community. If you do make a mistake, apologize for it and mean it. Create your own path, have a clear distinct vision of where you are going, and develop plans that will get you there.

What direction do you see the Chicago scene going? Are more brands taking notice?
I love Chicago! We are fortunate to have a thriving culinary, travel, fashion, art and music scene that separates us from other cities. At this pivotal time, it’s incredibly exciting to see global brands taking notice and wanting to be a part of it. However, Chicagoans love what’s from Chicago. Brands that descend on the city must be open to learning about our culture, scene and preferences. If they do that, they will be successful.

We don’t make headlines, our clients do.

*photo:Jack Edinger


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