On the screen in a Moore Hall classroom, two professionals from Edelman — a global communications marketing firm — Skyped in to talk to a small group of honors students at Central Michigan University.
The honors course, developed and taught by journalism faculty member Elina Erzikova, is called Creative Storytelling as Brand Management. It uniquely integrates mentorship from Edelman staff with class challenges and hands-on experience.
In addition to learning how brands communicate, the students are putting their skills to the test by creating strategies to promote the Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games — an event attended by more than 6,000 people each year.
"It's an eye-opening experience for students to create stories for a brand," Erzikova said. "It's not creativity for the sake of creativity, it's creativity for the sake of business goals. It is important to be different to get through the clutter."
Erzikova developed the course after spending part of her sabbatical at the Edelman office in Chicago through a Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations fellowship.
"When Elina mentioned her interest in creating an Edelman-inspired course for honors students, we were thrilled and wanted to make sure the course was a true collaborative effort," said Caroline Killam, a marketing specialist at Edelman.
The students' majors range from fashion merchandising and design to political science to marketing to integrative public relations. Edelman employees involved in the course include planners, strategists, researchers and account managers.
"By engaging with Edelman employees on a weekly basis, we hope it helps students to connect the dots better between the work they are doing in the classroom and the 'real-world' agency life," Killam said.
Last week, the class traveled to Chicago to visit the firm.