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Jen Psaki: Stepping Up to The Podium

By: Collin Renfro

There’s no denying that the position of White House press secretary is the most demanding public relations job in the country. Breaking news is happening every hour of every day and you’re required to be prepared to speak openly to the nation about tough, often divisive, topics. The White House press secretary must therefore be knowledgeable, trustworthy, articulate, and courageous. I believe that Jen Psaki holds these admirable qualities and more. In a short time, she has garnered an exceptional reputation as a public relations professional.

Political Expertise

Psaki is a driven leader with an impressive resume. She established a career in political communications in 2001, working for Iowa Democrats and later becoming the deputy press secretary for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. She would go on to serve as U.S. representative Joseph Crowley’s communications director in 2005 and 2006. These experiences boosted her reputation and offered Psaki valuable connections within American politics. She eventually established a relationship with former President Barack Obama, serving as the traveling press secretary during his 2008 presidential campaign. When he was elected, she followed him to the White House to fill the roles of deputy press secretary and deputy communications director. She vacated the latter position in 2011 to briefly work for public relations firm Global Strategy Group in Washington, D.C. President Obama snagged her back in 2012 and she became the press secretary for his reelection campaign. The following year she was hired as the spokesperson for the United States Department of State. CNN took her on as a political commentator in 2017 where she stayed for three years before being recruited by the Biden-Harris transition team. She officially took the title of White House press secretary in November 2020 and held her first press briefing just two months later.

Transparency and Honesty

Psaki took on the role of press secretary during an incredibly turbulent time in American politics. Her first press conference as White House press secretary came just weeks after the deadly U.S. Capitol attack. The COVID-19 pandemic was still overwhelming hospitals as mask mandates continued to divide communities across the country. While former president Donald Trump had been widely criticized for berating and insulting female reporters, Psaki was prepared to set a new tone within the White House. Prominent political commentators even applauded her first press conference and noted the distinct differences between her behavior and that of predecessor Kayleigh McEnany. Speaking on behalf of the Biden administration, Psaki said, “we value the press, we value the role of the press, we value the importance of sharing information.” In the age of “fake news”, or at least claims of it, this is a welcome relief. It’s vital that our government leaders respect the free press and know how to work with journalists in order to share information with the public. It should be expected of the press secretary to be transparent with Amerincans and it’s encouraging to see an experienced communicator fill this role.

Communicating Confidently

Psaki was rejected twice from the job of White House press secretary but never backed down. She continued to gain valuable experience in other communications positions. Her time at the Global Strategy Group gave her an opportunity to focus on political opinion research and public affairs while serving in a leadership position. This ultimately gave her the confidence to take on future, more challenging jobs within the federal government. It’s admirable how she’s not afraid to take on a challenge or try something new. As a public relations professional, she has remained committed to upholding the truth and leading by example. Furthermore, it’s important to point out that Psaki made history as part of the first all-female White House senior communications team. This distinction sets a new standard of inclusion while proving to young female public relations professionals that anything is possible.

Jen Psaki plays an important role in our democracy as a spokesperson for the White House and Biden administration. She’s expected to leave her current position around May 2022 but this won’t be the end for her. Psaki is sure to use her talents as an experienced communications professional, political commentator, advisor, and leader to become successful in future endeavors. I look forward to following her work and I’m inspired by her determination.


About the Author: Collin Renfro is a journalism student at the University of North Texas with a concentration in public relations. He’s interested in pursuing music management or influencer relations upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in May 2022.

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This material was written for and provided by AGENZ PR, a student-led PR firm specializing in matters of diversity, inclusion, and the Gen Z perspective. AGENZ teams are comprised of PR students from the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism, all of whom are dedicated to providing clients with insightful and digitally innovative work products to enhance business practices. Students learn and excel by getting hands-on, professional experience in the public relations industry.