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November 5, 2022,

Marianna Zapotilová: “At Rockaway, every day is a challenge. And I like that.”

Marianna Zapotilová: “At Rockaway, every day is a challenge. And I like that.”

Marianna Zapotilová has been a permanent part of Rockaway’s PR team since 2020, when she was hired by then-PR manager Michaela Papežová. Initially she focused on social networks, internal communication and working with universities, but soon her agenda broadened – including due to many external circumstances – and today along with Marek Blahuta, the other half of the team, she is responsible for the group’s entire PR strategy and everything that goes with it. And even though once upon a time she’d seen herself as a journalist, the last ten years have repeatedly convinced her that steering her career toward PR was one of the best decisions of her life.

An overseas education

“High school was pretty classic. I mainly liked Czech, essays, and languages, so picking journalism made the most sense,” she says, recalling her typical decision-making back then as to where to go to university. But the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University in Prague is known for having lots of applicants to study journalism, and so Marianna admits that like it or not, she had to “cram” for the entrance exams.

“I decided to get in no matter what. So for a year I read newspapers from beginning to end every day, watched the news, immersed myself in all sorts of general overviews and sample tests, wrote articles for one internet magazine… and it paid off – for the journalism department, where they picked sixty out of 900 applicants, I ended up second,” says Marianna. Back then she was also accepted in the PR department, but at that time she didn’t find it as enticing.

But understanding it is also an integral part of journalism and media skills. So during her studies Marianna had the opportunity to find out more and more about PR, and was gradually more and more enchanted by this field, which was first named in the 1930s by American theoretician Edward Louis Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. “In second year I still didn’t have a clear idea of the future; I simply just liked that I was at the faculty at all. I liked all practical as well as theoretical subjects, in the library I read various books in addition to the recommended ones, and in general enjoyed student life,” says Marianna in describing how much school and everything that went with it excited her.

And she also studied abroad. For most students, this major experience is something that influences their professional career, and in Marianna’s case it was no different, where the ability to study abroad gradually became part of her main goals.

Marianna finally decided for sunny Florida and spent an entire year at the University of Miami (UM). “From an academic perspective it was an excellent university, otherwise Charles University wouldn’t even had an agreement with them. Nevertheless, just before I left my friends found a list of the best party schools in the USA, and UM was in first place with a comfortable lead. So I got a lot of ribbing from them over that,” she laughs. But as she adds, in the end her studies were quite demanding, including an initial over-estimation of her capabilities and subsequent coming to terms with reality. “In the first semester I registered for a lot more subjects than I should have, because I’d gotten the impression that I should be able to handle it easily. But after about a month I had a minor breakdown and had to re-evaluate my decision with the help of a student advisor,” says Marianna in describing the flip side of studies.

After returning to the Czech Republic, aside from life experience, she’d also brought with her the dilemma of what to do now – and for her next challenge she chose London, where at Kingston University she put her money on studying photography and production. “I completed my bachelor’s degree, started working for Czech Radio, thought about where to apply to do a master’s degree. I’d already liked photography while at the Faculty of Social Sciences, so I wanted to expand my both my theoretical knowledge and practical skills, and I’d simply see that would be next – having a visual education from Britain came in handy already back then, and I was convinced that this would also be the case after graduation.

The road to Rockaway

Back in Prague, she then started working in a growing PR team, once again at FSS. I knew the place well, plus I had good relationships with academics. I’d also developed a closer relationship with PR, and so everything started to make sense to me.”

Marianna spent over seven years at the PR department, and as she herself admits, even the at first glance restrictive environment of a university can be extremely free and inspiring: “Aside from daily PR, events, and the website, I was responsible for promoting study programmes for foreigners, so I was also frequently abroad,” says Marianna in describing a mere fraction of everything she experienced during her time at the faculty’s PR department.

Eventually the time came to move on again, a bit further along and in a slightly different environment. Back then, a friend she was having supper with mentioned that the Rockaway investment group was looking for someone for a two-member PR team. “At first I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to handle this field, and to this day I remember hesitating until the last day I was supposed to send my CV. But already during the interviews and first visits to Rockaway, back then still at their offices at Kavčí Hory, I had the feeling that it would be the right thing to do.”

Now, after more than two years at Rockaway, Marianna is grateful for making that decision. “I’ve been on two different teams led my Michaela and then Pavel Kalouš. I always saw their work as being very demanding and wasn’t really able to imagine being in their position. Now, when their agenda is basically covered by me and Marek Blahuta, I suspect that I can perhaps handle it. I’ve made great strides here – both in terms of my self-confidence at work and in its quality. And I’m grateful for this opportunity, because at Rockaway every day is a challenge – and I like that,” she says.