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A press secretary is an individual who speaks for a person, government official, or organization in a public capacity. It typically is the press secretary’s responsibility to shape his or her constituent’s public image, to maintain relationships with the press corps, and to conduct damage control during unfortunate or unforeseen events. To become a press secretary, you typically will need to have an undergraduate degree, experience in the field, and a demeanor that can handle the pressure of being in the eye of the public.
There is no one direct way to become a press secretary. People in this profession could speak for either celebrities, public figures, or government officials. Since a press secretary is a specialized area of public relations, an undergraduate degree in public relations could be a good place to begin.
You might want to look for an internship or position with a newspaper, television station, radio station, or even an Internet outlet to get your foot in the door. Such a position could provide valuable experience, particularly with learning how to write press releases, news stories, and other content; developing relationships with people you might have to network with in the future; and handling yourself in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. You might consider writing news articles for the constituent’s benefit or become established on talk radio if at all possible.
Volunteering is also a great way to establish one’s presence, especially for a government official. If possible, you might want to earn a degree in journalism or communications. Press secretaries, particularly those who go on to work for a government entity, usually have extensive backgrounds in journalism. If you want to become a press secretary that specializes in government issues, it might be productive to also take courses in political science.
Other social sciences, such as sociology or business, could also be beneficial depending on the desired area of interest, particularly if you hope to become a press secretary for public figures in the business or social scenes. In any case, courses and experience in public speaking and debating can be crucial since a press secretary’s function is to be the public image of his or her constituent. Since the press secretary’s job is to shape the public image of a person or organization, he or she must know how to speak to the public, be up-to-date on current events, and be able to manage a crisis situation at a moment’s notice.
I think a big problem with most press secretaries is they don't have any real world experience. They go to college and go straight into being a politician's aide, and then move up the ladder from there.
All press secretaries ought to have to work for a while at a weekly newspaper, or somewhere that will, as Grivusangel noted, expose them to different kinds of people. They need to learn to work and earn a living on a shoestring so they will understand what it's like to live frugally and deal with people very different from themselves. This is crucial when having to explain difficult policy in terms that won't cause revolution.
I'd say a degree in public relations/communications/mass media would be a given, as well as working at least a couple of years for a newspaper or TV station. There's nothing like a newspaper for giving a young media professional experience in dealing with breaking news and changing issues. You have to be able to stay on top of this stuff.
You also work with many different kinds of people at all levels of society at a paper, and this can provide valuable experience later on. A good press secretary knows how to relate to people on all levels of the social spectrum.
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