SUNY College of Environmental Science Forestry Issues Branding RFP

SUNY College of Environmental Science Forestry Issues Branding RFP


SUNY-ESF seeks proposals to conduct market research, create brand messages and develop a communication strategy that will create a clear and consistent identity, enabling the college to promote itself to key audiences. This project is designed to provide detailed research that will answer the question “Who are we?” and provide a road-map for building a cohesive awareness campaign, expanding the college’s profile among potential students, alumni, donors, faculty and staff, legislature as well as national prominence.


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) was founded in 1911 through the efforts of Syracuse University Chancellor James R. Day and respected state leaders, such as Louis Marshall, who were attuned to a growing national sentiment in favor of forest conservation and sensed the need for a professional school of forestry. Under the leadership of first dean Hugh P. Baker, SUNY-ESF looked to serve the broad needs of environmental professionalism. As other forestry schools became more specialized, SUNY-ESF expanded its scope to include such essentials of environmental science as design, engineering, life sciences and resource management.

The College is a doctoral-granting institution, one of only 13 in the 64-campus SUNY system, with highly focused research and service programs reaching across the globe to search for new knowledge and improve global quality of life. Students share in the vast array and excitement of these opportunities through direct contact with distinguished faculty and researchers. They gain broad hands-on experience conducting scientific research and applying the results of their work. Quality instruction and exceptional experiential learning opportunities for students top SUNY-ESF’s priorities.

SUNY-ESF’s enrollment strategy has targeted undergraduate students from throughout the United States for many years. Regarding students who actually enroll, however, the pool is much more concentrated. Half of the enrolled undergraduate class comes from within 126 miles of the main campus. After examining some historical data of enrolled students, the College admissions staff has focused its enrollment strategy on enhancing the conversion rate from student inquiry to applicant. We are using a more granular approach that involves targeting prospective students at the ZIP code level, not just by state.

The challenge is clear: Time, funding, institutional priorities and the scope of national visibility remain limited, yet SUNY-ESF has a unique platform of academic programs that have both national and international appeal. The need for effective communications, media and marketing strategies has grown and we seek input regarding how professional communications consultants, companies and individuals might assist SUNY-ESF in building its enrollment and becoming more visible to a broad base of prospective students as well as potential partners and donors.

Scope of Work:

Goals of this project include:

  • Brand Audit Review
  • Discovery and Research
  • Branding Positioning
  • Branding Hierarchy
  • Institutional Communications Audit & Strategy Development

Target Audiences:

  1. Prospective Students (undergraduate and graduate level)
  2. College Alumni
  3. College Foundation
  4. Active Donors: Alumni and friends of the College
  5. Potential Funders: Federal agencies, private foundations and corporate partners
  6. Potential Conservation Partners: State agencies, non-funding Feds
  7. State and local governments
  8. Grant funding program applicants or faculty research
  9. Prospective faculty and administrators

Targeted geographical locations in priority order:

  1. New York State (particularly the metropolitan area)
  2. Contiguous states (including New England and mid-Atlantic)
  3. West coast and southern markets (CA, TX, FL)

Primary competitors (in no particular rank)

  1. SUNY University Centers (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook)
  2. SUNY Comprehensives (Brockport, Cortland, Geneseo, Oswego, Oneonta, and Plattsburgh)
  3. Clarkson University
  4. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University
  5. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Aspirational peers (in no particular rank)

  1. Cornell University
  2. Penn State
  3. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
  4. University of Vermont (UVM)


It is intended that the project be concluded by September 28, 2018, with the following key milestones:

  • Research outcomes for Brand and Communication Strategy
  • Brand Positioning
  • Recommendations for institutional Communication Strategy based on research outcomes
  • Completion of Communication Strategy

Phase I: Brand Strategy

Brand Development Research:

  • Brand Audit Review:

SUNY-ESF will supply existing brand guidelines and samples of existing institutional marketing pieces for undergraduate admissions, alumni and development. Additional supporting documents will include SUNY-ESF’s Strategic Plan with institutional priorities.

  • Discovery/Research:

The selected party will complete market research to gain insight into the brand strategy, including consultation with members of the Visibility and Marketing Committee.

Note: Although extensive information gathering and research is out of scope of this RFP, the selected party may elect to supplement the proposal with efficient, focused and time-sensitive information gathering such as interviews with key personnel or stakeholders.


-What is our current brand or reputation?

-Where is that brand strong and where is it weak?

-Who are our most important audiences?

-How do these audiences need to perceive our brand in order to support our mission?

-How can our brand be carried succinctly and where should it vary?

-What words, taglines or key messages will evoke affinity among multiple stakeholders?

-What marketing and fundraising tools must we create to disseminate our message?

Branding Positioning:

By identifying SUNY-ESF’s brand positioning, the selected party will develop messaging and language as outlined by the questions above to be used in key markets, specifically focused on how the institution presents itself locally, regionally and nationally. The proposal will also   identify SUNY-ESF’s position and brand promise which will include key messages through storytelling formats (including use of video) that will enhance the institution’s competitive position.

Additional strategies may also recommend opportunities for brand rollout events on campus or introduction of the new positioning of the brand through paid media and/or promotional items.

Branding Hierarchy:

SUNY-ESF’s brand will be the primary brand for the institution and what is used among campus stakeholders. There may be a need for sub-brands for individual academic departments or specific marketing materials relative to research. These sub-brands will be consistent with the primary brand and the selected party will provide recommendations on how to accomplish this.

Phase I: Deliverables

  • Research outcomes for brand and communication strategies. Supply written reports on data/research/findings that include final recommendations
  • Brand Positioning Report

Phase II: Institutional Communications Audit

Review Current Communication Strategy:

The audit will consist of the below:

-Review and analyze existing communication policies, practices and material related to internal and external communication. Emphasis will be given to undergraduate recruitment (first-year, transfer and parent/guardian populations). This includes, but is not limited to newsletters, web, social media and undergraduate email communication sequences (CRM).

-Review and analyze existing communication strategies and tactics in alignment with the brand strategy and market research. This is to gain insight into what is needed for effective communication and engagement with key audiences. (This section may be combined with the Discovery/Research component under Phase 1: Brand Strategy).

Communication Strategy Development:

The audit will provide direction in the following:

– Update any existing communication policies and practices as needed

– Complete a communication strategy that addresses audience needs and communication messaging and tactics

-Recommend tactics to support effective community engagement to key audiences including undergraduate, alumni and potential donors to the College

-Recommend process changes to facilitate effective internal and external communication

Phase II: Deliverables:

  • Provide recommendations for institutional communication strategies based on research
  • Completion of Communication Strategy Report

Due Date:

July 5th


SUNY ESF College

Purchasing Attn: Lauren Pinkel

100 Bray Hall

1 Forestry Drive

Syracuse, New York 13210

Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR is a graduate of the SUNY school system.

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