Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about Mark W. Schaefer’s new book: Known: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age. For example, Ai Addison Zang reviewed it.
I haven’t read the book. But, after reading those reviews, it’s officially on my Christmas list.
With all the buzz about personal branding online, I’d like to share a personal branding assignment I started incorporating in my Public Relations Principles class last semester.
My Struggle in Teaching Personal Branding
Personal branding is something I’ve struggled to successfully bring into my classes. When I first started teaching social media at Shepherd University, I had a personal branding project. In short, students developed a personal branding plan. Then, throughout the semester, the students worked on executing the plan. For example, one student started a video gaming blog focused on retro RPGs. At the end of the semester, students presented their outputs and their results in brief presentations.
I loved the idea. But, I found that students didn’t take too well to it. Most students didn’t put the time and concentration into the project that I had hoped. A number of students didn’t do much of what they planned to do such that at the end of the semester they didn’t have too many pieces of content – whether that was video posts or blogs – to show for it. I wanted to know why the project didn’t succeed as I had hoped. So I asked. Several students expressed some skepticism as to the value of what I was trying to get them to do. And, some simply didn’t want to have an online presence.
That was in the fall of 2012. After that experience, I pulled back quite a bit on online personal branding. And I’m sad to say that, perhaps out of fear of it not going well again, I stopped requiring my students to do online personal branding. I didn’t so much as require students to participate in a Twitter chat – though I certainly encouraged it as extra curricular activity.
In all honesty, when I reflect on my teaching over the last 5 plus years here at Shepherd, I think that not emphasizing personal branding in my classes is the one thing I wish I did better.
Steps Back into Personal Branding
After reading Dr. Freberg’s book, I got the bug again about teaching students personal branding. I decided to start small with a project in my Public Relations Principles class. I first gave this assignment last spring as a final project in the class instead of the paper I used to have them write.
As I noted above, this project is an adaptation of the assignment Dr. Freberg puts forth in her book. I modified it down. The purpose of this project was for students to strategize how they would build their personal brands online.
The assignment is broken down into a few parts.
First, I provide students with Dr. Freberg’s checklist for personal branding. I encourage students to work through the list.
Next, I require students to identify a job or internship that interests them and answer some questions about how they relate to the position.
Then, I have students map out their personal brand. Lastly, students must create a LinkedIn or About.me profile branding themselves.
Because I gave this assignment late in the year, I did not ask students to build out a plan for building their personal brand nor did I ask them to have executed one. Rather, I asked them to start taking little steps towards executing a personal brand and provide me evidence that they are moving in that direction.
I’d like to grow this into something more where the students need to go out and truly prepare a detailed strategy and execute it for weeks or a few months – similar to what I was originally doing in my social media class. I’m not sure where I’d fit this in as my social media class is pretty packed right now. But, I’m going to think about it further this summer, read Schaefer’s new book, and see what I can come up with.
If you’ve got tips or examples of how you’ve gotten your students to find success in personal branding, I’d love to hear them. Tweet me @mjkushin or comment on this blog.
You can see the full assignment below.