Press Secretary

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Press Secretary


All organizations rely on their reputations in order to survive. The public needs to trust a company in order to buy its products or use its services, or donate funds to its cause. All organizations use public relations specialists, who strive to get the right messages across to the public. They act as the intermediary between their employer and the public, including consumers, community groups, and the media. These public relations wizards attempt to get the most favorable publicity possible while putting a positive spin on events without anybody knowing that they are trying.

Nobody uses or relies on these public relations specialists more than politicians. Known in the political sphere as press secretaries, these individuals work hard to keep their bosses on the public's good side.

Press secretaries work for all levels of government, from individual politicians to entire parties and departments. Each media representative is in charge of relaying government news, policy, and commentary to the public through press releases, press conferences, and interviews with media. Often, a press secretary will assist with speech and press release writing, or by organizing press conferences and interviews during which governmental officials speak for themselves. Due to their work with media, press secretaries must ensure that they establish and maintain working relationships with important community representatives, public interest groups, advertising agencies and with representatives from the journalism world.

In fact, journalists often depend on press secretaries to learn about what plans and decisions the government is working on. Because government planning often happens behind closed doors, there is a lot of information journalists cannot gather for themselves. Press secretaries therefore have a lot of power in the distribution of government news--they can even decide which journalist gets the hottest scoops first, and who gets to ask questions at press conferences.

Press secretaries are sometimes not always trusted by the public as they feel press secretaries are working only to produce the news that fits the government's best interests. They are sometimes referred to as political spin doctors helping politicians put the right spin on their messages. However, this is an unfair judgment, often they are former journalists themselves, who have years of journalistic integrity as the foundation of their new career. However, it is true that they are experts in the art of persuasion, and will do their best to portray the division of government they represent favorably.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Press secretaries always have outgoing personalities and they exude an aura of self-confidence. They are primarily communicators, therefore they must be able to express ideas clearly and logically to appeal to their intended audience. They are persuasive and creative individuals with an understanding of human tendencies. They are quick thinkers and decision makers and must be able to deal with crisis situations and appease the public if a disaster occurs.

Press secretaries must know the ins and outs of the governmental department or politician they are working for, including philosophies and history. They must be interested in all areas of the media, and be prepared to forge good relationships with broadcasters, television producers, journalists, and publishers. Finally, they are often quite competitive and must be able to handle public scorn and possible rejection.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop communications objectives and a communications plan
  • Arrange publicity for the public figure or governmental department they represent
  • Create and maintain public awareness of their specific branch of government's policies and actions
  • Conduct research (e.g. public opinion and attitude surveys)
  • Prepare and write speeches, media press releases, brochures, advertisements, reports, articles, newsletters and websites
  • Coordinate special events, conferences and promotions
  • Contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material
  • Coordinate meetings between public officials and journalists
  • Provide the public with information when it is requested
  • Typical workdays for press secretaries are often irregular and subject to frequent interruption. Occasionally, they must be at the job or on call around the clock, especially if there is an emergency or crisis. They often work nine or 10 hours days, meeting project deadlines, consulting with clients and devising media strategies. Considerable travel can be involved in the day to day activities of the job.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Press secretaries work for politicians, either during campaigns on behalf of a political party, or once they are elected to office. Press secretaries can also work on behalf of smaller governmental divisions, and municipal offices. They will work alongside publicists and writers, as well as journalists and other media types. They will work long hours, in their own press offices, meeting rooms, and in various political offices within government buildings.

  Long Term Career Potential  
The long-term career potential for press secretaries is promising. They are masters in the art of communication and persuasion and could work in any position where mass communication is important. They can always move out of the political sphere, and become media coordinators for non-profit organizations, or major corporations. Freelancing is an option for press secretaries who have wide experience in both the public and private sectors and wish to move around in both industries, picking up contract after contract. These freelances may also decide to start up their own public relations consulting firm and contract out themselves on different projects. They can also move into more creative positions such as creative writing, broadcasting, publishing, and producing.

  Educational Paths  
There is a variety of ways to become a press secretary, yet there are no specific educational guidelines. Press secretaries usually have university degrees or college diplomas in journalism or communications. However, since the job covers a lot of areas, expertise in public affairs, English, business, politics, marketing and advertising are also quite valuable.

Many universities and colleges offer degrees or diplomas in public relations. This is definitely a great starting point as such a program focuses on special courses pertaining directly to the industry. Internships at government communications departments or at PR firms are also a good idea for getting experience.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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