State of Maryland Issues Public Relations RFP

2019-03-19 by EPR Staff
State of Maryland Issues Public Relations RFP
State of Maryland Issues Public Relations RFP

Maryland 529 anticipates that the Maryland ABLE Program may require marketing services on an as- needed basis during the period of marketing contract.

Maryland 529 was originally created under the Enabling Legislation as the Maryland Higher Education Investment Program by the Maryland General Assembly in 1997. The agency was later called the College Savings Plans of Maryland until July 1, 2016, when, in conjunction with becoming the oversight agency for the Maryland ABLE Program, it became Maryland 529. The new name reflects the sections of the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) which provide for savings program for education and disabilities savings, I.R.C. §§ 529 and 529A, respectively. Maryland 529 is administered by an 11 member Board consisting of the State Treasurer, the State Comptroller, the Secretary of Higher Education, the Secretary of the Department of Disabilities, the State Superintendent of Public Schools, the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland and five citizen members appointed by the Governor.

Maryland 529 offers two 529 education savings Plans. On May 8, 2018, Maryland Senate Bill 933 was signed into law and renamed the Maryland Prepaid College Trust as the Maryland Senator Edward J. Kasemeyer Prepaid College Trust (“MPCT”) and the Maryland College Investment Plan as the Maryland Senator Edward J. Kasemeyer College Investment Plan (“MCIP”). Senator Kasemeyer has served in the Maryland General Assembly nearly continuously since 1983, and was one of the primary sponsors of the legislation that originated the Maryland college savings programs, including the 1997 legislation establishing the Maryland Prepaid College Trust. The MPCT allows families to purchase one semester up to five (5) years of future college tuition at a current price and is backed by a Maryland Legislative Guarantee;. The MCIP currently offers 18 no-load investment options and is managed and distributed under Maryland 529’s current contract by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Account holders with Maryland taxable income in either or both plans are eligible to receive an income deduction of up to $2,500 per year, per MPCT account or per MCIP beneficiary.

Historically, total marketing spending for the past three fiscal years was approximately $1,000,000 annually but is not a guaranteed amount in the future. Of that amount, 80% has been funded by T. Rowe Price as part of their contract with Maryland 529 as program manager for the MCIP, while the remaining 20% has been funded by the MPCT.

Scope of Work:

Marketing Services:

                Category I – Comprehensive Marketing Plan

                The Contractor, in concert with the Maryland 529 Board, shall assist the Maryland 529    Marketing Committee with the development of Maryland 529’s annual marketing strategy and         public relations campaign. The goal of the plan is to increase participation among all Maryland            families who have college dreams for their children.

                                A. Comprehensive Marketing Plan – The Plan will contain annual marketing goals and                                     related strategies, including, but not limited to:

                                                1) The development, maintenance and/or enhancement of an existing strategy                                                               which will enhance Maryland 529’s marketing materials for the year;

                                                2) Development of segmented Maryland 529 client personas and related                                                             segmented messaging and activities to increase account holdings within these                                                  segments;

                                                3) A specific strategy to reach expectant/new parents, as well as current parents                                             and/or grandparents;

                                                4) A specific strategy to reach adults with disabilities and/or families of children                                                                 with disabilities that may be eligible for Maryland ABLE; and

                                                5) A specific strategy to target minority market and low income households,                                                       with a focus to promote the Save4College State Contribution Program.

                The Contractor will work with Maryland 529 to implement the annual Comprehensive Marketing              Plan throughout the State’s fiscal year.

                                B. Market Research – Market research is a critical component in guiding Maryland 529’s                                                 advertising and communications to new prospects and existing account holders. The                                      Contractor shall:

                                                1. Recommend and manage various projects, including working with vendors to                                                               provide insight and analysis into research findings and reporting, scheduling,                                                      coordinating meetings and presentations.

                                                2. Facilitate focus group or similar testing of knowledge of 529 Plans, customer                                                  satisfaction, advertising concepts for major campaigns, brand positioning, or                                                      other marketing-related issues as requested by Maryland 529.

                                                3. Conduct a market study and other formal market research to provide insight                                                                 and analysis into new prospects and current account holders’ behaviors as                                                          requested by Maryland 529.

                                                4. When assigned a research project by Maryland 529, Contractor shall                                                                  complete or manage the completion of the project through a Subcontractor in a                                                               timely manner, with several milestones or deliverables throughout. These would                                            typically include, but are not be limited to:

                                                                a. Define research objective(s) and methodology selection                                                                                         recommendation;

                                                                b. Provide participant screener criteria and questionnaire or discussion                                                                  guide design;

                                                                c. Execute actual research project;

                                                                d. Provide data analysis and formulate conclusions and/or                                                                                           recommendations; and

                                                                e. Summarize key results or findings in written form and communicate                                                                  research results to Maryland 529, as directed by the Maryland 529.

                Category II – Branding and Advertising

                The Contractor, in concert with the Maryland 529 Marketing Department, will develop a               comprehensive campaign to support the mission, goals and objectives within the stated budget               parameters of the Comprehensive Marketing Plan. All materials across all channels will follow           Maryland 529 branding standards. The campaign can include Maryland and Washington DC-  based radio, print, television, and digital advertising.

                Separate campaigns may need to be developed to promote the Save4College State Contribution             Program and Maryland ABLE, which may use some or all of the following advertising channels:

                                A. Radio – Maryland 529 has used radio advertisements and special program                                                       sponsorships of 30-seconds and 60-seconds in length. In addition, we have been able to                                              add :10 and :15 second tags to address specific deadlines or events. Development may I                                        nclude content, editing and recording.

                                B. Television – Maryland 529 has advertised on broadcast and television cable stations.                                                 The spots are 30- seconds in length with a focus on directing viewers to the Maryland                                    529 website. Development may include content, production, editing and recording.

                                C. Print/Outdoor – Maryland 529 occasionally runs print advertisements in specialized                                    publications and will be integrating billboard advertising development that will include                                   creative, layout and design, and placement in print/outdoor outlets approved by                                                Maryland 529.

                                D. Digital Media –Digital media advertising includes: banner ads, text ads, search                                             advertising, social media advertising, mobile ads, HTML emails and web videos.                                                                 Maryland 529 has implemented a geo-targeted search term campaign, Facebook                                             advertising campaign, web banner ad campaign and video ads.

                Category III – Print Collateral

                The Contractor, in conjunction with the Maryland 529 Marketing Department, will be     responsible for all the development and production of the printed materials used to market the           plans; including, but not limited to, photographic services, layout and design, artwork, copy               writing, typesetting, production, and digital imaging. The enrollment kit, tri-fold brochure, and     annual report summary will require printing support by the Marketing agency.

                                A. Enrollment Kit – The Enrollment Kit is Maryland 529’s most significant marketing tool.                                It provides prospective participants with all details about the plans. For the majority of                                      those prospects seeking information about the plans, this may be the only item                                                                 received. While Maryland 529 staff is primarily responsible for the text and/or contents                                     of the Enrollment Kit, Maryland 529 is receptive to suggestions, ideas, or comments                                    about how the Enrollment Kit could be developed into a stronger marketing tool. The                                      Enrollment Kit includes information on each plan (MPCT and MCIP). The current                                                                 Enrollment Kit is 68+ pages of text (including the inside front and back covers), 8.5 x 11                                           inches in size. The Enrollment Kit includes a Highlights booklet, two Plan Disclosure                                          Statements, two Enrollment Forms, two return envelopes, and one outer envelope. A                                                 new Enrollment Kit is typically produced annually to coincide with each new MPCT                                     enrollment period and includes significant changes in both plans. For the 2018/2019                                       Enrollment period Maryland 529 printed 15,000 kits. The Enrollment Kit is also available                                    digitally on Maryland 529 website.

                                B. Tri-Fold-Brochure – The tri-fold brochure provides a general overview of the plans                                     and the key benefits of each plan. Typically, past brochures have been color pieces, tri-                                         fold or bi-fold used for public distribution, displayed at other public places, or as direct                                          mail pieces. The goal of this piece is to provide an overview of the key features of the                                            plans for easy distribution. The Contractor is responsible for the concept, layout and                                                design.

                                C. Stand-Up Banner/Display – Maryland 529 currently has pop up banners that are used                                                at selected events, exhibits and fairs throughout the year. The Contractor is responsible                                              for the concept, layout and design and for printing updates to the banner/display as                                             needed.

                                D. Prospect Mailer – The prospect mailer is used to target new movers and prospective                                               customers. The target audience has been generated from internal resources and                                            commercially purchased lists. The Contractor is responsible for the concept, layout and                                                 design.

                                E. Flyers/Handouts/Take-One Sheets – Flyers and infographic hand outs are distributed                                                by Maryland 529 staff at benefit fairs and community events, and are given to                                                   organizations such as schools, non-profits, and businesses, that have requested to share                                             Maryland 529 general information. The number of flyers produced each year can vary.                                  In 2017, Maryland 529 created 2 infographics in addition to 5 other flyers. The                                                     Contractor is responsible for the concept, layout and design of the flyers.

                                F. Annual Report – The Annual Report is published once a year in the fall. It is typically a                                                 64 page 8.5 x 11 booklet. The Contractor will be required to design the cover, format                                      charts and develop the layout for the piece. The content and data will be provided by                                          Maryland 529. While Maryland 529 does not commercially print the Annual Report, the                                            report is posted electronically and should be printer friendly.

                                G. Annual Report Summary – The Annual Report Summary is published once a year in                                    the fall in conjunction with the Annual Report. It is typically an 8 page fold-over self-                                               mailer. The Contractor will be required to design the booklet, format charts and develop                     the layout for the piece. The content and data will be provided by Maryland 529.

                                H. Outdoor Billboards – Maryland 529 will be utilizing outdoor billboards to promote the                               Save4College State Contribution program.

                Category IV – Media Planning and Buying

                The Contractor will research, develop and execute a media-buying plan. The research will            include media audience, ratings/readership, value-added opportunities such as on-air interviews          and brochure distribution at selected station events and/or other criteria as determined to be            relative to the benefit of the plans. Maryland 529 and the Contractor will determine these               criteria. The Contractor will conduct the media buy as determined in conjunction with the      Maryland 529 Marketing Department and as specifically directed by the Contract Monitor. All                 radio, television, outdoor and print markets in Maryland and the District of Columbia will be        examined for inclusion or exclusion in the overall media placement by the Contractor and the                Public Relations and Marketing Manager.

                Campaigns are to be effectively understood and monitored. Reporting on the performance of the media results to be provided on a monthly and quarterly basis. The reports are to compare          data for each campaign/program, year over year, and include an analysis with recommendations      in order to optimize performance and drive results.

Public Relations:

                Category VI – Community Outreach and Public Relations (PR) Support

                The Contractor will assist the Maryland 529 Marketing Department with developing or carrying out comprehensive public relations and community outreach services, which support the     mission, goals and objectives outlined within the stated budget parameters of the             Comprehensive Marketing Plan.

                Maryland 529 targets all regions in Maryland, Baltimore City and Washington DC areas. Each        region may have unique qualities for the public relations efforts and should be addressed              separately.

                These services may include, but are not limited to: researching, writing and distributing press     releases; maintaining a press list; securing partnerships with targeted media, organizations             and/or audiences that can lead to informational seminars or other outreach opportunities;              supporting social media efforts; and identifying and assisting in securing partnerships with    Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that would support and promote the Maryland 529     brand.

                                A. Press Relations – The Contractor may be asked to research, write and distribute press                                              releases. Part of this service will include maintaining a press list and developing relations                              with key members of the press.

                                B. Social Media – The Contractor will assist the Maryland 529 Marketing Department on                                                evaluating current social media platforms and making recommendations for increasing                                  engagement, improving user experience, and instituting new platforms, if applicable.

                                C. Partnership Development – Maryland 529 undertakes numerous community                                                                 partnerships annually that have the potential for local PR efforts. These include                                                                partnerships with organizations such as the Maryland Zoo and Port Discovery Children’s                                               Museum, Maryland-based minor league baseball teams, and the State Library System.                                                 Additionally, Maryland 529 partners with CBOs that serve low-income and minority                                         communities such as CASA, Catholic Charities, CASH Campaign, and Junior Achievement.                              Maryland 529 will look to the Contractor to help secure community partnerships that                                          would promote the Maryland 529 brand.

Due Date:

April 5th, 2019.


Maryland 529

217 E. Redwood Street, Suite1350

Baltimore, MD 21202

Attention: Dominic Edet, Procurement Officer

W2O group and Hunter PR have relevant experience.