Texas A&M University Seeks Firm For State-of-Marketing-and-Communications Report
The Real Estate Center seeks a vendor to audit and assess existing communications materials, processes, and programs and to provide key objectives and strategic recommendations to help leverage REC resources for communicating more effectively and efficiently with target audiences.
The Real Estate Center was created in 1971 by an act of the Texas Legislature. Originally known as the Texas Real Estate Research Center, it is known today simply as the Real Estate Center.
Among the purposes, objectives, and duties stated in the enabling legislation is a charge to “conduct studies in all areas related directly or indirectly to real estate or urban or rural economics or both and to publish and disseminate the findings and results.” The law prohibits Center staff from contacting legislators or locally elected officials directly unless in response to an inquiry.
The law also requires the Center to “prepare information of consumer interest describing Center functions and to make the information available to the general public and appropriate state agencies.” A report of the Center’s activities must be published annually.
A portion of each active and inactive Texas real estate license fee funds the Center. No state appropriations are involved in the Center’s operation, but Texas A&M University does provide human resource support. The Center director reports to the dean of Mays Business School.
The Center’s 24-member staff is divided fairly evenly into administrative, research, and communications functions.
National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun once commented he was deeply jealous of the Center’s ability to remain independent enough from the industry to be considered totally unbiased. That is something that the Center staff continually reminds the industry.
The Center staff prides itself on innovation, including many major firsts on campus. Among these are the introduction of the first desktop publishing system (1987), the first publication in Spanish (1980), the first Kindle e-book (2011), the first data scientist position (2014), the first to use Microsoft Azure Cloud services, and one of the most advanced data warehouses on campus.
Thirteen years ago, the Center identified these objectives:
- broaden the funding base,
- create a world-class website,
- achieve a national reputation for excellence,
- conduct high impact studies,
- develop an innovative, close-knit team
- build strategic partnerships and alliances,
- develop multiple products from each effort,
- initiate forecasting research,
- conduct comparative research,
- dominate the data,
- increase collaborative research,
- conduct consumer research,
- increase public-policy research, and
- invest in technical “eye candy.”
At the Center’s creation, the Texas Association of Realtors requested the Legislature levy an increase in fees on Texas real estate licensees to fund the Center. Original funding levels were $5 a year from agents and $10 from brokers. About 15 years later, the fees went to $7.50 for agents and $15 for brokers.
In this Century, our fees were raised to $20 for both license types. In 2010, a $50 tax on brokers for education was transferred to the Center. Those fees and some or our own seminar revenues combine to generate nearly $6 million a year for the Center. The fact that we have only had to ask for more money three times in 47 years shows we manage our money judiciously.
Our planning includes several future funding scenarios, including a disrupter scenario resulting from emerging technologies.
The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M is by far the largest academically affiliated real estate research center in the nation and perhaps the world.
With literally thousands of published works (2,204 titles as of May 2018), REC is a prolific producer of quality research and distribution of information. It is fully vertically integrated with is own business administration, technology, research, and communications teams, plus an education specialist. The Center has a graphics lab/studio. The Center has 21 full-time staff, three part-time graduate students working on PhDs, and several masters and undergraduate students. In all, REC has between 30 and 32 full-time equivalent staff. The typical “real estate center” at other universities includes a clerk and one or two research staff members.
The Center’s data and information are relied upon by a wide spectrum of business disciplines far beyond real estate brokerage. The Texas Association of Builders leadership has said our information kept their industry from overbuilding, thereby limiting the depth of the housing-based Great Recession in Texas. When the Department of Commerce ceased publishing building permits nationally, the Center picked up the data and is now the go-to source for the nation. The State of Texas and most of the major cities have written into their laws reliance upon Center data for just about all decisions related to real estate economics. In addition, REC gets anecdotal evidence from power users from across the nation.
Scope of Work:
Specifically, the purposes of this audit are to help the Center:
o identify which groups of stakeholders are currently relying on and using Center data and research products and how they are using them;
o identify other prime target audiences for Center data and recommend products and tactics to reach them;
o elevate external communications to a level that engages target audiences to the highest extent possible;
o implement marketing and communications strategies that position the Center as the “go to” resource for Texas real estate news, data, and economic expertise;
o develop a measurement system for evaluating the effectiveness of the Center communications channels and content;
o set up our Google Analytics to get meaningful results (advise us on what changes are needed to our SharePoint platform);
o organize and enhance existing resources to capitalize on the Center existing programs, initiatives, and leadership for maximum effect;
o advise the Center on key performance indicators staff should be tracking;
o develop systems and processes that enable the Center to strengthen communications at all levels with various audiences and the media; and
o align communications activities to support Center strategic objectives.
Texas A&M University
College Station TX 77843-1477
Fax – 979-845-3800
APCO Worldwide and Edelman PR have relevant experience.