By Rubai Soni
Introducing, David Zapata: a dad; the Founder and President of Zapwater; a travel buff; an achiever; a team leader and an innovator.
David founded Zapwater in 2004 and it has been growing ever since. David says, “who are we; we are the premier creative alternative agency in the USA, which focusses on lifestyle brands.” He is very passionate about his work, which is evident from the innovative projects he has headed. One of his personal favorites is the Hotel Sax Chicago: Turning Regular Joe’s into J-Lo’s. Zapwater introduced celebrity inspired packages for fans who would love to enjoy their stay at the hotel just like their favorite celebrity did. This was one of their first award-winning campaigns which had featured in many high-profile news outlets.
David’s love for travelling opened many doors for Zapwater. It is one of the 25 members of Travel Lifestyle Network. This gives them an opportunity to work with international agencies on many global clients. He says that every country does the same thing but in a different way. The multicultural experience gives him an opportunity to share best practices, unique ideas, different tactics, and approach. Zapwater is the only PR agency to have a yearly international staff exchange program. Wherein, a member of the staff can work for an international agency for a week and gain a global perspective on the PR world.
Zapwater as a boutique agency
David’s defines a boutique agency as a mix of a company’s culture, environment, creativity, and approach; irrespective of its size. Zapwater is an untraditional boutique PR agency. It does unique stuff from a small agency point of view. It has a vacation policy in place, which allows the staff members to maintain a good work-life balance. Employees are allowed to get their dogs to work and they can work from home too. David has also introduced a four-week vacation policy and a team building program called “ZapU”. It is a quarterly program wherein the teams spend a day together. Recently, the Chicago and Los Angeles team participated in a ropes course. These exercises help team members relax and at the same time get an opportunity to know more about each other. The Zapwater team works as a family and they love working with David. They feel valued as he trusts their decisions. This plays an important role in their development as good PR professionals. These unique qualities result in lower employee turnover as compared to other small or mid-size firms. Take a tour of the Zapwater office
David as an award-winning leader
David is very selective while choosing his clients. He believes that Zapwater is at a level where it can reject a client if they do not fit in its predetermined category. For him it is not about the check that comes in, it is about the passion behind the work that the team is presenting. He wants them to be excited to get to work and this can happen only when they love what they do. This benefits the team as well as the client. This strategy has been successful and consequently Zapwater has won one or more than one award each year, since its inception.
David was extremely modest when asked about the awards his team brings home. He says, “We don’t make headlines, our clients do.” This is a very humble approach to the industry as the client hires an agency to win awards not for themselves but for the client. Zapwater has won national awards which small agencies rarely win. He gives the credit of his success to his clients, his awesome team and to the ever-evolving PR industry.
Career advice for budding PR professionals
Public relation is an integration of paid and earned media. It also has various influencer programs. In the end, an agency needs to put together unique programs that help in building a stronger profile for the client. “It is a misnomer that PR is a glitzy and sexy profession”, according to David. It is a lot of hard work that results in successful projects. One should be passionate about what they are doing. Entering the profession with the right attitude is important as well. PR professionals should be like a sponge, absorbing everything that comes their way. They should always be updated with new PR trends and technologies.
Rubai Soni is a second-year graduate student in the public relations and advertising program at DePaul University. This Career Capsule article was part of her “final exam” assignment that included researching and interviewing an agency head.