If you’ve followed my journey for some time, you’ll know my career is split into two distinct spheres – Style Charade and my full-time job in communications and marketing. A “workfluencer,” if you will. In truth, I keep the two very separate unless absolutely necessary. Today is one of those rare intersections because I’m extremely excited to share some happy news with you: I’ve been promoted to Chief Strategy Officer at my company.
Listen, I sincerely try to keep my full-time job and blogging like Church and State – never the two to (ideally) meet. However, my 9-to-5 (or more like 5-to-9 (lol) plays an incredibly significant role in my life, and so I want to give you a window into what’s transpired. Plus, it’s a joy to celebrate these meaningful milestones with friends!
Before I delve into what this means for me, our incredible team, and the future of the agency, I want to take a moment to reflect on my incredible 13-year journey with this firm. Trust me, it’s been anything but dull. 🙂
Jennifer Lake Zapwater Communications Promotion
Riding the Wave: Two Decades in the Industry
As I step into my role as Chief Strategy Officer, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible roller coaster of a journey I’ve had in the communications landscape. While the current chapter is cause for celebration, the previous ones make for quite the story too—a 20-year saga of ever-changing dynamics in public relations, influencer marketing, and social media.
Fasten your seatbelts; we’re diving into a two-decade-long whirlwind of transformations and what it means to keep surfing those waves.
From Press Releases to Tweets to TikTok Dances: The Evolving PR Landscape
In the late ’90s, PR was a one-way street—a neat press release, delivered with a bow (or even a fax) to traditional media outlets, was the bread and butter of public relations. Ah, the nostalgia! Publicists – remember those massive Bacon’s books? Good gracious I remember combing through those every day like my life depended on it. IYKYK.
Fast forward to today, and the story couldn’t be more different. Now, PR involves not just media relations but navigating the labyrinthine social media landscape, engaging directly with consumers, and even creating memes to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Remember when #HashtagsWereNotAThing? Look how far we’ve come.
The Birth and Boom of Influencer Marketing
In the early 2000s, who could have predicted that a blogger with a camera or phone would wield as much power as a newspaper column? Influencer marketing went from a ‘maybe’ in the marketing mix to a ‘must-have,’ transforming overnight from embryonic blog posts to multi-million-dollar brand collaborations. It’s like watching your favorite indie band become a global sensation—equal parts inspiring and slightly disorienting.
I’m a big proponent of influencer marketing (especially after blogging myself since 2008). I’ve personally seen the impact of influencer marketing in building brand awareness and more importantly – conversion.
Also, it’s a joy to watch our influencer/social team continue to drive innovation and incredible campaigns. Steph (who leads our digital group), is a major inspiration to me. She has been, and will continue to be, an invaluable part of my professional journey. I truly couldn’t have done these past 13 years without her.
The Long Game in a Revolving Door Industry
In an industry where people often bounce from one agency to another, I’ve chosen a different path and stayed loyal to my firm. Often, there’s a notion that sticking around means being stagnant. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In my humble opinion, there’s a deep-seated advantage in loyalty: the intricate understanding of a company’s DNA, the long-term relationships nurtured with both colleagues and clients, and the ability to influence the trajectory of the agency over an extended period. These are not things you can put in a suitcase and take with you to the next gig. They are cultivated, earned, and deeply rewarding.
Moreover, I’m a big believer we’re all in the drivers seats of our careers. In the words of Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” I’m a strong advocate for proactively sculpting your future rather than passively reacting to it, and this new role gives me the space, time, and platform to do just that.
The Benefits of Playing the Long Game
Here are just a few of the key lessons I’ve learned from my long-term career at my agency:
Contextual Depth: Knowing the full story behind our clients, projects, and team members has enabled me to make more informed decisions, faster. Depth trumps breadth every time.
Trust Capital: Over the years, I’ve looked to build a reservoir of trust with our clients, media and influencer partners, and internal team. This makes innovation less risky and more fruitful because trust is at the core.
Network Longevity: Being in one place for an extended period has given me a unique kind of networking advantage, if you will. The relationships mature into partnerships, many of which have become pivotal in defining our strategic growth.
The Art of Adaptability: The Only Constant is Change
Through all these seismic shifts, one thing has remained constant—the need for adaptability. If you’re not evolving, you’re not just standing still. In other words, you’re moving backward in a world sprinting forward. Here are a few key takeaways from my own experience:
Never Stop Learning: Stay curious. From RSS feeds to AI-driven analytics, the tools of the trade will always change. Your willingness to learn should not.
Forge Authentic Connections: Algorithms change, but human emotions don’t. Authentic relationships with clients, influencers, and consumers stand the test of time.
Future-Proof Your Strategy: Always look ahead. Whether it’s exploring new platforms or creating contingency plans, preemptive strategy beats reactive scrambling.
Speaking of Strategy and Growth
My role will be multi-dimensional, from continuing to drive new business development across our three offices to serving as a strategic advisor to our CEO, who’s a close confidant and friend. We drive each other crazy sometimes (haha!), and Lord knows I’m not perfect. However, we continue to share the same vision and commitment to building the best agency in the world. Grateful he offered me a job so many years ago and that he’s fully committed to my future with the firm.
One of my key objectives will be identifying new focus areas that will add value to our already world-class client roster. Strategy is not just about moving pieces on a board; it’s about envisioning what the board itself should look like. Or, in my view, getting rid of the board altogether and finding a new shape or structure to redefine the occasion.
Commitment to the Future
As I step into this next phase of my journey, it is with a commitment to remain as adaptable as ever. While the channels through which we communicate and the tools we use will undoubtedly continue to evolve, my promise is to steer our ship confidently through both familiar and uncharted waters.
However, as we look toward the future, my commitment is fivefold:
To Our Team: To continue fostering a culture of innovation, teamwork, and unparalleled professional growth.
To Our Clients: To always be a step ahead, anticipating their needs and exceeding their expectations.
To Our Agency: To remain loyal to the DNA that makes Zapwater unique while pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. To take calculated risks and innovate when no one is doing so.
To Our Industry: To confidently know our services and industry hold immense value for the clients we are fortunate to serve.
To Family & Friends: To attempt to find stronger work/life balance in this next phase of life, and to solidify boundaries. To put my mental (and physical health) first (and also the health of those I hold most dear).
If I do my job right, the lines between these commitments should blur, weaving into a single, forward-looking strategy that benefits all. So here we are, at the intersection of legacy and innovation, with respect to the past and a passion for what’s to come.
And trust me, the best is yet to come. 🙂
I can’t wait to embark on this new chapter, not only for my personal growth but for the collective success of our clients, our team, and our agency as a whole.
Thank you for being part of this incredible journey and to all those who have been a part of it. Your support means the world to me, and I couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter.