TALLAHASSEE, FL: The Florida Prepaid College Board is in competitive negotiations with four agencies for a potential $6.7 million, three-year integrated communications program promoting its Prepaid Tuition and ABLE United programs.
The Prepaid Tuition program allows Floridians to pay early for tuition and other college costs. ABLE United enables them to save money tax-free to cover medical expenses of family members with qualified disabilities.
Florida wants to improve participation in the plans. For fiscal year 2017-18, the number of new prepaid plan beneficiaries dropped 6.3% to 27,782, compared to the prior fiscal year. The number of new Florida prepaid savings plan accounts dropped 7% to 9,127.
In negotiation documents, the board noted that website traffic increased but fewer people have signed up for accounts, which "follows the national trend that contributions into 529 plans has leveled off recently."
The state began the procurement process in September when it issued an invitation to negotiate, as opposed to an RFP, which asked for pitches aligned against its current annual comms budget of $6.7 million.
The submissions were due on November 1. Four agencies responded, including incumbent advertising and PR agency St. John & Partners and incumbent PR shop Moore, formerly known as Moore Communications Group. A spokesperson for the board did not disclose the other competitors.
A Moore spokesperson referred questions to the board. St. John & Partners did not respond to questions.
The board has evaluated and scored the submissions and is in the negotiation phase of the process with all four firms. It is scheduled to vote on and announce the winner in a public meeting in Tallahassee on February 20. The new contract is set to begin in April.
The invitation was divided into two components: one dedicated to PR, partnerships and events, and the other to advertising and creative, digital marketing and social media. Respondents could have bid for both contracts together or either one separately.
Bidders for the PR work were asked to create an overall plan guided by Florida demographic data. The winning PR shop will be expected to produce daily, weekly and quarterly analyses of all media reporting as well as media training, talking points, press releases, media advisories and other services.
It will also plan and support events; manage content development; offer graphic design support for partnerships, brand ambassadors and events; and help to develop strategic alliances, partnerships and co-branding opportunities.
The PR retainer does not include Hispanic communications, market research assessing the image of the board, printing or shipping, which are handled on a project basis.
The advertising component includes developing and implementing an annual comprehensive strategic paid program as well as a plan for owned digital marketing and social media. It is also comprised of creating, producing and coordinating content for the Florida Prepaid website, the foundation website, and the ABLE United website; all email marketing, including the creation of annual email strategy and calendar; and development and execution of all aspects of social media.