‘Students should build their personal brand online’

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 14:06 IST

Andreas M Kaplan, director of brand and communication Europe, ESCP Europe

How relevant is brand promotion and communication to management programmes today?

Nowadays, branding is more vital than ever in the higher education sector, especially in the areas of business and management.

Currently, due to the increasing trend towards globalisation, business school brands are not local anymore but are international and compete with each other on a worldwide basis for the best talents. Students are very conscious of which brands they would like to include in their CV and which ones they would rather avoid. To make this decision, they take into account objective indicators such as ranking positions but also subjective ones, such as the values the brand is conveying. Both elements are important since they send important signals to their future employers.

There is even a recent trend for students to “shop for brands” and to maximise the number of brands they are involved with during the scope of their studies. For example, a majority of students prefer to do their Bachelor and their Master’s degree at two different institutions, instead of staying at the same one. In this context, opportunities for double diplomas or exchange programmes that a business school can offer are of increasing importance. Both play an essential role in the students’ brand choice and their desire to extend the number of different brands displayed on their resume

What promise does the social networking phenomena hold for management students?

In general, social media represents a paradigm shift in how to do business. They make companies more transparent and interactive and allow to understand customers in new ways, who in turn, become more powerful through social media. It is evident that these trends impact the type of content that business schools teach in their programmes. However, in addition to this obvious effect, social media, or the digital sphere in general, also offers new ways of learning and teaching. Key words that are frequently mentioned in this context are MOOCs, SPOCs, blended learning, cooperative note taking - to name just a few.

For students, social media offers the possibility to build up their own personal brand online, which allows them to better sell themselves to potential recruiters, especially in perspective of applying for their first job. For those with more entrepreneurial ambitions, social media facilitates the diffusion of business ideas to the market, the communication about them, or even the obtainment of funding through crowdfunding initiatives.

On a personal level, social media makes it easier to stay in touch with former classmates over the course of each other’s lives. In this sense, they represent a challenge to traditional alumni associations since tools such as LinkedIn easily provide updated contact information for friends and acquaintances over the years. In future, alumni associations will need to adapt their offer in order to find other ways of helping their members

Should every management student be well versed in social networking? Isn’t it considered a waste of time to spend time tweeting and chattering when you could be studying instead?

Due to the reasons outlined above, it is important that every student is aware of the opportunities and risks that social media bears. Of course, this does not mean that each single one of them has to tweet day in and day out, be continuously present on Facebook and have hundreds of pictures on Instagram. However, students need to be aware of the fact that potential employers increasingly use Google to find information about potential applicants and consult their social media presence before giving out a job offer. Previous studies have shown that approximately two thirds of all employers do an Internet background check on candidates and 25% admit to have abandoned at least once a candidate because of the information found about him/her on the net.

An intuitive choice to avoid this problem might be to avoid being present in the virtual sphere altogether. But this is not an option. Students who are disconnected from social media will not know what is written about them online. Not actively posting anything online is certainly possible, but it does not mean that nobody else posts pictures of the latest party with friends. A basic presence and awareness of social media is essential to become aware and eventually eliminate certain pieces of information, if this turns out to be necessary. Also today, in times of crisis, many candidates often apply for one position, and not having a social media presence could be eliminatory. Recruiters who do not find anything online about a certain candidate might just discard the person completely and instead focus on another applicant where online information is more easily available

What has ESCP been doing to make social media fun and interesting for its students?

Being the world’s oldest business school there is a risk of being considered as old-fashioned. Therefore, social media are of high importance for ESCP Europe to support our image of an innovative, modern and dynamic brand.

To make social media fun for our students, ESCP Europe produced several viral marketing videos over the past few years. We also organised several competitions where the best viral marketing video created by students, received an award. In my own course on social media and viral marketing, I include the creation and implementation of a viral marketing video as part of the course assignment. In groups of six, students work on a video related to certain aspects of the school, such as our expertise in cross-cultural management. Some of these videos then make it on the school’s official social media applications or even on the ESCP Europe website.

But the most straightforward way to make social media fun and interesting is to involve students directly by promoting their personal (success) stories on different social media applications or sharing, retweeting and responding to the content they put online themselves

Any interesting programmes that you have done with the industry? If yes, please give details

Given the general interest in this domain, we offer several initiatives in collaboration with companies on these topics. For example, we offer open executive programmes on Business 2.0 or Digital Marketing in cooperation with CCM Benchmark, an advertising company specialised in the domain. In addition, we also provide degree programmes which focus on social media within the general programme portfolio of ESCP Europe. Examples are our master in media management in Paris, our master in marketing and creativity on the London campus, or our master in marketing and digital media in Madrid. In general most of our programmes, in one way or the other, cover the area of social media and the digital landscape.

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