University of Utah Seeks Strategic Communications Development

2018-04-02 by EPR Staff


University of Utah Seeks Strategic Communications Development


The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to solicit proposals to enter into a contract with a qualified Vendor to obtain creative strategic communications and digital marketing services to support its efforts to strategically communicate a public higher education advocacy message statewide for the Board of Regents/Utah System of Higher Education (USHE).


The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) seeks to acquire the services of a qualified, experienced, and creative strategic communications and digital marketing firm to support its efforts to strategically communicate a public higher education advocacy message statewide. USHE invites proposals from interested vendors with demonstrated experience in strategic communications, public relations, brand development and management, marketing, social media strategy, and website design/development, with specific experience with data visualization. The website- based data visualizations will include interactive data dashboards that simplify complicated data for the general user.

The Marketing and Communications service will provide the expertise to guide development of a robust communications strategy. The strategy will need to incorporate the following key principals: heighten the engagement of stakeholders, promote the importance of achieving a higher education while being prepared for college, speak to the value-add of state-level higher education leadership, and promote the initiatives the Board of Regents and Utah System of Higher Education (USHE).

The Utah State Board of Regents is the governing body for the Utah System of Higher Education. The Utah Legislature grants it the power to control, manage, and supervise the system. The Board sets a strategic vision for higher education in Utah. The Board of Regents is comprised of 17 Utah citizens, all appointed by the Governor. The Commissioner of Higher Education is the CEO of the Utah System of Higher Education. The Commissioner’s office is responsible for implementing the vision of the Board, including policy, outreach, statewide data collection, and other key initiatives.

The Board of Regents recently approved a 10-year strategic plan, focusing on the objectives of Affordable Participation, Timely Completion, and Research & Workforce. The Board is currently working to launch high-impact statewide initiatives that will meaningfully improve college attainment for Utah students.

These initiatives will align with efforts already underway to advance higher education in Utah at the state level, such as Governor Herbert’s Education Roadmap and key legislative direction. As the Board of Regents heads into its 50th anniversary in 2019, these state-level initiatives are also intended to set lasting direction for higher education in Utah.

Different from traditional college marketing, the Board of Regents operates at a general state level without a long-standing brand. However, it is necessary to have general higher education messaging and advocacy that is not directly carried out by public higher education institutional traditional marketing campaign. State-level messaging is typically a broader umbrella strategy, with a clearly-articulated vision for higher education in Utah that is propped up by supporting key initiatives. The inherent challenge is a communications strategy that resonates to the local level.

Scope of Work:

To increase advocacy momentum for the state-level strategic direction of higher education, USHE is seeking expertise to guide development of a robust communications strategy that heightens the engagement of stakeholders, promotes the importance of achieving a higher education and being prepared for college, speaks to the value-add of state-level higher education leadership, and promotes the initiatives the Board will be implementing in the coming months. The primary objectives of this effort are:

  • Drive measureable traffic to USHE’s websites using a marketing mix that spans digital, public relations, and targeted offline communications and events
  • Build greater awareness of the benefits of higher education, the role and value- add of the Board of Regents, and the statewide initiatives from the Regents.


1) Communications Strategy Development:

A data-driven communications strategy developed by the agency should be able to be tailored and localized for a variety of audiences (rural vs. urban, parent and student, business leaders, state stakeholders and agencies, elected officials, etc.). Messaging should be anchored around forthcoming key initiatives from the Board of Regents, which:

  • Allows message to stay current, meaningful, and actionable
  • Keeps stakeholder groups involved and interested
  • Shows innovation, action, and movement
  • Allows for meaningful pivot from usual higher education stereotypes (costly, inefficient, etc.)

2) Assess perceptions of higher education among key constituencies:

  • Use existing qualitative reports from focus groups to understand perceptions of higher education and the Board of Regents from key stakeholders such as legislators, business leaders, institutional representatives, and others.
  • Work with an external agency to formulate questions on a statewide public opinion poll to better understand Utah perceptions (from the general population) about higher education core issues such as affordability, access, completion, expected outcomes, value, workforce transition, etc. (Existing external agency will run the survey and report back.)
  • Based on these outcomes, provide recommendations on the methods and mediums that will have the greatest impact and maximize awareness of the Board of Regents’ initiatives and the importance of earning a college education.

3) Refresh look and feel of USHE assets:

  • Evaluate the USHE/Utah Board of Regents look and feel, and the associated outreach initiative brand “StepUp to Higher Education” for effectiveness and cohesiveness.
  • Audit current USHE communications, e.g. SWOT analysis.

o What are we doing well?

o What needs to be improved?

o How do we align with industry best practices?

  • Evaluate effectiveness of USHE and USHE’s branded initiative “StepUp to Higher Education”
  • Refresh and update brand identity (logo, letterhead, business cards, and envelopes) of USHE and USHE’s branded initiative “StepUp to Higher Education”.
  • Create usable templates and style guides for reports and presentations for USHE and USHE’s branded initiative “StepUp to Higher Education”.
  • Perform consulting to understand how best to utilize the 50th anniversary of the Board of Regents and any associated branding/messaging opportunities.

4) Develop roll-out campaign for initiatives for the 2018-19 school year in support of the Board’s statewide vision for higher education, with messaging tailored to specific audiences and constituencies:

  • Priorities, purpose, and value-add of the Board of Regents and centralized governance
  • Planning for the 50th anniversary of the Board of Regents is in 2019
  • Key initiatives from the Commissioner’s Office
  • Including outreach efforts to Utah students, parents, and school counselors about college readiness
  • Developing localized external messaging for initiatives, with a local and regional media focus
  • Public speaking strategy: Establish a Higher Ed Utah “speakers’ bureau” to include higher ed leaders, business leaders, and other message champions, etc. going to state and local stakeholders to get support for initiatives and general advocacy message
  • Paid media strategy: sponsored content, statewide and local outlets, co- branding with institutions or other affiliated groups in support of campaign— social media, on-campus communities, etc.

5) Website development, testing, deployment:

In tandem with the efforts above, the vendor will redesign USHE’s WordPress- based website ( USHE’s top priority for the website is disseminating information for key constituencies, including statewide data through engaging, interactive visualizations, higher education news, Board of Regents meeting notices and agendas, and other information about the Board of Regents and USHE. The website should be built on WordPress so that USHE can manage it after this contract has ended. The website redesign will include:

  • Visual design overhaul, including any new branding elements from above
  • Responsive web design including mobile device optimization
  • SEO integration and training
  • Content strategy
  • Creation of interactive data visualizations to improve readability, access, and transparency of state-level higher education data
  • CMS training at the completion of the redesign
  • Plan for ongoing maintenance after launch

The agency will also review and provide recommendations for improved messaging and layout changes on USHE’s other websites (,, as part of the content audit.

Due Date:

April 12th, 2018.


201 S. Presidents Circle Rm. 170

Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Strong education PR agencies include Ruder Finn and RF Binder.