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Becoming a press secretary usually requires a combination of education and experience, as well as an ability to network and sell yourself in a number of different settings. As with so many jobs, there isn’t always a way to simply transition from graduation into full-time work as a press secretary. Once you have the requisite book learning, you may need to spend some time working in less powerful jobs with the media or in public relations in order to build a portfolio of experiences that you can then turn into the work you want at some point down the road. You also might need to start in lower profile, less prestigious positions — working for a local official or in a small office, for instance — before you’ll be qualified enough to work in more acclaimed role. Outside of education, the most important part of getting this job is usually tenacity and determination. If you’re persistent enough, you will likely find the perfect fit, though it might take some time.
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. This person is also usually responsible for making announcements about breaking news and changes.
People in this profession could speak for either celebrities, public figures, or government officials. Different things are required in different capacities, but in general the job requires undergraduate degree, experience in the field, and a demeanor that can handle the pressure of being more or less constantly in the public eye.
Press secretarial work is often thought of as a specialized area of public relations, and as such an undergraduate degree in public relations could be a good place to begin. You might also want to earn a degree in journalism or communications. Press secretaries, particularly those who go on to work for government entities, usually have extensive backgrounds in journalism.
Other social sciences, particularly politics or business, could also be beneficial 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 the position's main function is to be the public image of his or her constituent. Your job will be to shape the public image of a person or organization you represent, and as such you must be very comfortable speaking in public, be up-to-date on current events, and be able to manage a crisis situation at a moment’s notice.
Simply holding a degree isn’t usually enough on its own to become a press secretary. Most of the time, you’ll also need at least some experience to prove that you have what it takes to do the job well. 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.
In addition, work in any of these settings can help you develop relationships with people you might have to network with in the future. Handling yourself in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment is also good practice for what your life will likely look like once you get the job you’re chasing. 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.
Though celebrities, public figures, and emerging corporations may have a number of people on their public relations teams, there’s usually only one press secretary. This often means that the job openings are limited and also really competitive. You’ll usually need to be willing to work your way up, and to take lower-status, often lower-paying jobs while you wait.
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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