Branding RFP Issued By Sam Houston State University


The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) division aims to raise and manage the university’s reputation by implementing brand standards and governance across all divisions. IMC serves the needs of all SHSU divisions, including Academic Affairs, Strategic Enrollment & Innovation, Advancement, Finance and Operations, Athletics, Student Affairs, and the President’s Office. Within these divisions there are unique departments which will require supplemental brand focus. They are Alumni Relations, Sam Houston State Museum, and the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s clinic site The division is led by the Chief Marketing and Public Information Officer, who reports directly to the university President and is a member of the president’s cabinet. The IMC division is broken down into several departments: Marketing, Branding, Creative, Media, Digital, Content and Fan Engagement.

IMC is organized in a traditional agency format where a coordinator manages the partner’s needs. The organization provides full service of account management, public relations, publicity, design, production, and delivery. This unique and challenging objective requires specific personnel, equipment, and organizational structure to succeed. The chief marketing and public relations officer oversee the operation and sets the policy for meeting the goals set forth in the university’s strategic priorities. The marketing directors are responsible for the quality and dissemination of communications across all platforms. The creative director is responsible for production scheduling, editing, and approval of all graphic design work and maintaining the production equipment. The content team is responsible for creating all high-value content creation for the university. The digital director manages the university’s external websites, oversees all social media channels, and places all digital advertising and analytics on all external channels. The media director manages the university’s external media coverage and promotes the university in the appropriate channels.


D.2.a Brand Architecture: The primary focus on this brand effort will be discovering the culture of Sam Houston State University Stakeholders and to speak with a unified voice and personality The brand effort will inform our identity and stories, defining our strategic efforts in marketing and communicating across all areas of the university. It will consistency across all areas of marketing, including logos, press, advertising, social media, collateral and events. It will directly inform us for the upcoming development of the new website and showcase our offerings using consistent visuals and verbal language. We understand that when we adhere to brand guidelines, we ensure that we highlight our strengths and opportunities. This effort will build a strategic framework that is the very essence of who we are. It will include our foundation or building blocks of our brand. It will set the tone for consistent messaging across the university. It will unveil the unique pillars of what we do differently, how we connect to people, and what we believe in. We have a unique story to share, and the outcome of the brand work will provide us with the verbal language we use to tell our story. It will include our strategic drivers, our positioning statement, our elevator pitch, our boilerplate description, our social media descriptors, and sample headlines and positionings for our colleges and programs. This initiative will help address pressing questions of our brand including, but not limited to, the following:

1. How is SHSU currently positioning itself? How does this compare to its competitive set?

2. What messaging and positioning opportunities exist for SHSU?

3. What level of awareness, familiarity, and preference for SHSU exists among target audiences?

4. What are SHSU’s key brand associations?

5. What positive, distinctive characteristics may be used to better articulate SHSU’s brand strategy and position?

6. What negative perceptions about SHSU may limit the University’s efforts?

7. How does SHSU compare to peer institutions on key factors, such as awareness, reputation, primary associations, quality, program offerings, etc.?

8. What leads prospects to inquire to and apply to SHSU?

9. What leads prospects to explore other institutions more seriously?

10. Are current messages effectively communicating SHSU’s strengths?

11. Which marketing and recruitment messages about SHSU are most effective in advancing SHSU’s overall brand, enrollment, etc.?

12. How do alumni view their experience at SHSU and what is their interest in remaining engaged with the University? And how do they want to engage?


All that is stated herein are considered a part of the Scope of Work. These specifications are considered minimum requirements rather than a limitation to the Bidder. Contractor shall be required to perform the services and provide deliverables within this scope, which shall include, but is not limited to the following:

D.3a Brand and Design Development Requirements

1. The outcome of the project will be a clear definition of the institution’s personality, a primary positioning strategy, and a brand messaging platform that will simultaneously unite all sites while providing opportunity for strategic differentiation.

2. This project, when completed, will strengthen the awareness and reputation of Sam Houston State University, and enhance the attraction of the University regionally and nationally. Aligned psychographic communications strategies will bolster all marketing communications efforts across each campus.

3. Brand message matrix for each strategic driver to each audience. Provide a sense of how the eight colleges of SHSU are impacted by the new brand messaging and naming conventions.

4. Survey of internal and external audiences. Internal to include administration, current students, faculty and staff. External to include prospective students, parents of prospective students, alumni and high school counselors.

5. Identify top priorities and secondary priorities for these groups.

6. Brand Audit. A thorough review of existing University visual identities, including primary and secondary wordmarks (including college/departments lockups) Alumni Relations, Sam Houston State Museum and Bearkat athletic marks.

7. Market Research and Message Positioning

a. Research with stakeholders and external audiences, including:

1. Interviews and focus groups with campus constituents.

2. Surveys of stakeholders (current students, faculty/staff) and external audiences (prospective students, parents of prospective students, alumni and counselors)

b. Research will inform SHSU’s brand identity, market position, and naming conventions. This also extends the focus groups done previously as well as and our Discovery/Audit conversations. The research findings will lead to the development of a thorough Brand Foundation based on what we learned and what we see ahead for the SHSU brand.

c. University Icon Logo Mark which is complementary to the existing “SH” logo.

d. Bearkat mascot logo mark which is complementary to the existing Bearkat logo.

e. Extensions (including brand concepting, lockups, athletics). Formally address visual representation of the SHSU brand beyond the icon. Typographical updates of existing Bearkat athletic logos.

8. Comprehensive Brand Book. Develop, design, and deliver usage guidelines for the new icon as well as the existing suite of logos. This includes collaborating with Integrated Marketing and Communications to address both existing and updated brand standards.

9. Brand Implementation Plan. Work with Integrated Marketing and Communications staff to create a multi-year plan for the rollout of the new University Icon logo aimed at building logo recognition attached to the University brand.

10. Implementation Counsel. Help to educate and engage with your team and campus.

11. Competitive Analysis.

a. The purpose of this work is to assess the brand positions of SHSU and seven regional competitors to understand:

1. The brand space each institution owns.

2. How each institution conveys its brand position

3. How brand claims are supported through the university’s behavior (via what we can see)

4. Implications for the brand space SHSU owns today (and could own in the future) and how that brand identity is conveyed.

12. The development of the University’s brand development should utilize a data-driven approach and should be inclusive of:

a. Campaign concepts aligned with the University’s personality and primary positioning strategy with the option of execution across print, digital, and multimedia mediums.

b. A comprehensive brand guidelines book which includes our visual and verbal language, brand architecture, style guides, and brand tactics.

13. The successful firm should have a senior project team with leadership experiences in higher education and a historical client portfolio demonstrating an understanding of managing complex consensus building and change. To be considered for the engagement, qualified firms must be able to demonstrate a strong higher education portfolio that includes tangible evidence for each the following:

a. A mass-consensus mixed-method research approach.

b. A methodology that can reach thousands of internal stakeholders with live, in-depth, qualitative and strategic dialogue.

c. An innovative and proven approach that seeks to define and understand the personality of an institution, its weaknesses, and its future aspirations.

d. Proven quantitative research methods that reveal the perceptions and beliefs of the unbiased regional and national audience, with the ability to filter the results by audience segment.

e. Quantitative software or web interface tools that can reach stakeholders—such as alumni and parents—who cannot be present for the live qualitative dialogue.

f. A proven methodology for linking institutional outcomes with student personality archetypes and attractions.

g. A competitive auditing mechanism that investigates SHSU’s competitors, dissecting visual, verbal, persona, and narrative strategies and pinpointing opportunities that are in alignment with qualitative findings.

h. Strategic messaging and storytelling platform that unites with the positioning strategy to guide all visual and verbal communication for the next decade and beyond.

i. A collaborative approach that includes training modules which teach diverse internal stakeholders how to utilize the messaging platform to create their own on-brand content.

j. A proven methodology for personality-infused visual translation and content expression with a history of successfully implemented inbound and outbound content strategies.

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