A press secretary serves as a liaison between the media, the public, and the government, whether the government is represented by the President of the United States, a member of Congress, a governor, a county commissioner, or even a small town mayor.
Almost every local, state and federal agency uses press secretaries, and some larger corporations do as well. Press secretaries handle press releases and requests from newspaper, radio and television reporters. They sometimes write guest columns and speeches, and they organize events such as press conferences.
If you enjoy working with people and love the spoken or written word, this could be the career for you. But being a press secretary can bring its own unique challenges. One challenge that's often mentioned involves the tactical dilemmas caused by policy setbacks.
Press secretary salaries can cover a wide range depending on whether you're working with the federal or a local government. The national average was about $55,800 in 2017. This jumps to more than $65,000 annually if you happen to land a job with the U.S. Senate. State-level governmental jobs run in the same range, but can be considerably less—only about $32,000 in Indiana. The best paying positions tend to be in the private sector with large corporations such as Airbnb.
You'll need excellent writing skills, as well as superior editing and speaking abilities, to work as a press secretary. You'll be called upon to produce text quickly and accurately under deadline. You'll need a firm knowledge of the press and what reporters are typically looking for. Research and fact-finding skills are a must, and you'll need the poise and temperament to deal with high-stress conditions and long hours.
Education and Training
Most press secretaries have bachelor's degrees in communications, journalism or public relations. They've worked in print or broadcast journalism for two or more years.
A Typical Day
You might start out by clipping the morning newspapers and checking television, radio and news blogs for stories that relate to the office you work for. You'll distribute those stories and prepare others for likely press questions that will come up that day.
You'll field requests from reporters for information and interviews, and draft statements, press releases, guest columns or other material. You might talk to radio and television producers about requests for interviews or appearances on news and talk shows.
You're charged with developing media strategies to inform the public about key issues for the office. Press secretaries are not always part of a large team. They often work alone as a one-person shop.
Many press secretaries get their starts as newspaper or television reporters. If you're in college, an internship at a newspaper, radio or television station would be helpful. You can also take a more direct route and get an internship at a government agency or with an elected official.
If you don't have a college degree, it's possible to work your way up the ladder by getting a support job and working closely with other press secretaries.
The popularity and usefulness of social media and the web give people another way to enter the field because social media such as Facebook and Twitter are free, and government officials and agencies are increasingly putting them to use.