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Personal Branding 101: Here's the class to help you stand out online

Branding of Me
Gary Kayye, a professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, teaches MEJO 577: The Branding of Me. Photo courtesy of Gary Kayye.

In an age where you can sell products on Instagram, promote your projects on Twitter and rattle off your entire resume on LinkedIn, students in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media may need new technological skills to thrive in the professional world. 

Gary Kayye, teaching assistant professor in Hussman, has a course for that. 

MEJO 577: The Branding of Me aims to teach students how to use digital and social media for marketing and gives them a hands-on opportunity to build a brand they know well — themselves.

The idea for "The Branding of Me" came from Kayye's  previous course, MEJO 477: New Media Technologies: Their Impact on the Future of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations. Kayye said he wanted to teach students how to brand something.

"I had an epiphany I guess: if the students are branding themselves, they could use this as an opportunity for a sort of selfish semester ..." Kayye said. "Branding yourself could turn into an opportunity to not only put online what you want people to see about you online, but also generate an opportunity for you to get a job."

Students work on a personal blog, participate in writing workshops and learn how to build effective social media profiles, among other activities, according to the course syllabus. 

As part of the two part-course, students take the prerequisite MEJO 477 in the fall. MEJO 477 includes the line that “the future will and must get more personal” in the course description. 

Kayye said this more hands-on way of teaching has helped his students implement the concepts more quickly.

“It took a couple of semesters for me to kind of figure that out. Because the first few semesters I taught it, I tried the old-fashioned way of teaching them: how to learn the product really well and then the branding," Kayye said. "And it didn't work because there was so much time being spent on learning that, and I could eliminate all that time by having them brand themselves, because they know themselves.” 

Martha Bennett, a senior public relations and political science major, said she values the course because it provides the ability to be vulnerable in a professional way. 

Once a week, these students are given the opportunity to reflect on becoming who they want to be and how they want to be perceived, said Livia Olson, a senior advertising and public relations and global studies major in the course. 

That kind of activity varies from watching a TED Talk to internal meditation to hands-on activities like group discussion about life skills and the importance of a personal and professional life, Olson said.

Bennett said she appreciates the importance of having a strong online presence, but she hopes to also take with her the personal values that Kayye helps the class develop. 

For Bennett, this means understanding your personal passion and how it relates to others in the world around you.  She said she feels there is much more to learn from the course than how to get a job.

Olson said she gets the most out of the class's “three question” moments — a point during every class in which the students can pose three meaningful questions that help them better learn from Kayye's own experience. 

"A lot of times you get those 'What was your biggest failure? What was the happiest day of your life?'" Olson said. "These really big questions, so we get to know him.” 

This is not a tiresome note-taking class, Olson said. She said Kayye’s energy is high-quality, despite the fact he teaches two three-hour sections of the class back-to-back. 

While journalism and media majors are given preference, any major that could benefit is able to register for the course, Kayye said. He currently has a student majoring in psychology and has taught business majors in the past, as well.

The course is designed to keep up with an industry that is constantly evolving, Kayye said.

"The 477, the new media tech class, needed a part two because the industry is just giant and evolving constantly," Kayye said. "It’s not a static subject."

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