The Vermont Forest Products Program at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund seeks public relations proposals to raise the profile of the broad, diverse forest products industry among Vermonters and visitors from across New England.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing the sustainable development of Vermont’s economy. We provide business assistance, network development, research and financing in agriculture and food system, forest product, waste management, renewable energy, and environmental technology sectors. The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to partner with state government, private sector businesses, and non-profits to build a thriving economic, social, and ecological future for Vermont.
Vermont prides itself as the ‘Green Mountain’ State, with nearly 80-percent of its land mass covered in forest. Healthy forests and sustainable forest management are inherent to Vermont’s history and culture. Yet, the industry responsible for bringing us countless valuable forest products – from high-end furniture to construction material and other wood products to wood heat – is in decline due to a myriad of challenges. Rapidly changing commodity markets, overseas competition and an aging workforce all are contributing to an industry in transition. And yet, the environmental and economic viability of Vermont’s forested landscape depends on a healthy forest products industry to sustainably manage, harvest and utilize Vermont’s forests.
Vermont’s forest and wood products industry suffers from a poor image of being an aging, backwoods community (think of woodchucks, the Logger) or being invisible to the average consumer but for a few niche specialty products. And yet, the industry includes award-winning business owners (Maple Landmark Woodcraft’s Mike Rainville was the 2017 Vermont Business Person of the Year, representing all sectors of Vermont’s business community in Washington, DC), talented craftspeople and entrepreneurs who are developing new products and business models, and Vermont leads the nation in wood heat installations. The primary side of the industry includes dedicated landowners and professional foresters and loggers who care deeply about the health of Vermont’s forests. These stories must be told regularly in mainstream channels that reach beyond the small, sector-based trade organizations. The industry should be seen as on par with other vital sectors; i.e. Aside from working landscapes, it should be included in the renewable energy sector, the art scene, recreation and tourism and the Green Building sector. All of these sectors rely on wood, and yet by and large, Vermont’s forest and wood products sectors are absent from stories celebrating the advancement of these sectors of Vermont’s economy. In short, the industry would benefit from a PR makeover to shift the impression from old-fashioned, old-school, backwoods and quaint woodshops to modern, cutting-edge, creative and relevant in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund is leading the development and execution of an industry-level communications strategy intended to elevate the industry’s profile within the state to enhance opportunities for new and existing forest products businesses to thrive. It is a tactical plan, with options for action that can happen now, without significant funding, and makes recommendations for additional efforts that will require additional fundraising.
SCOPE OF WORK
Goal: Raise the profile of the broad, diverse forest products industry among Vermonters and visitors from across New England.
Approach: The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund has developed a communication plan to begin building the industry’s reputation in the state and the region. The approach will include a steady stream of good news, combined with targeted, multi-channel outreach to Vermont’s most influential businesses, institutions and consumer-facing entities that will result in more consumers making connections to Vermont-made wood products and the people and businesses responsible for bringing us our healthy and productive forests.
The selected PR firm/consultant will work with VSJF’s Forest Program Director and Communications Director to develop and execute strategies in the communication plan.
- Develop a steady stream of earned and owned media opportunities that highlight Vermont forest and wood products businesses and personalities: The PR firm/consultant hired will: create new content utilizing an existing photo library and other sources for use on blogs, social channels and news websites; develop an editorial calendar to maintain a consistent flow of ‘good news’ stories about the industry; pitch stories to Vermont and regional influential news media (newspapers, high-traffic blogs, broadcast) as well as influential architecture and home building magazines to coincide with external dates and events (i.e. National Bioenergy Day; National Forest Products Week, National Woodworking Month, etc.). All content will be accessible for Vermont forest and wood products trade organizations and other partners to use and share with their audiences via their websites, blogs or social channels.
- Promote industry summit: The PR firm/consultant will create content to promote an industrywide summit in late Spring, and follow up with earned and social media content featuring highlights from the summit.
- Other Industry Promotions As Needed: The PR firm/consultant may be asked to help promote events or stories that come up as opportunities.
- RFP must include name and title of primary consultant, as well as resume or background/experience of firm and/or specific consultant that demonstrates knowledge and expertise in content creation, media relations and social media;
- PR Firm/Consultant must be available for the duration of the contract and have a flexible schedule to be able to take on assignments that come up quickly;
- Please include a 1-page cover letter explaining why you or your firm would be a good fit for this project;
- Please include any restraints or barriers you or your firm may face in taking on this project.
This will be a 7-month assignment, with a fee determined based on background and experience of firm or consultant selected.
PROPOSAL EVALUATION AND SELECTION
VSJF staff will evaluate the proposals and determine the necessity for oral interviews. VSJF reserves the right to make a selection solely based on the written proposals.
The evaluation criteria that will be used in the selection process are as follows:
- Thoroughness of the proposal in addressing the scope of work,
- Clarity of the proposal,
- Understanding of the project goals,
- Experience/past performance,
- Proposed work plan,
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Questions due from vendors Monday, January 22
Answers to Questions sent to all vendors Tuesday, January 23
Proposals due Friday, January 26
Notification of Finalists Monday, January 29
Interview of Finalists (if necessary) Tuesday, January 30
Notice to Proceed Wednesday, January 31
Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.
CONTACT/VSJF PROJECT MANAGER:
Christine McGowan, Forest Program Director, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund