Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 3 - Institutional
Rollins College Saves its Specialty License Plate
Jeni Hatter, Ann Marie Varga

Golden Image Award

Research/Situation Analysis: In 2005, Rollins College learned it was in danger of losing its specialty license plate. The state of Florida announced it would discontinue any tags that did not reach a total of 1,000 new and/or renewal annual registrations by June 30, 2006. As of April 2005, there were only 396 valid Rollins tag registrations. The Office of Public Relations launched an advocacy campaign to save the Rollins tag. The campaign was outlined in a Promotional Plan (see attachment 1) and it was decided the target audiences would be Florida alumni, as well as current students, faculty and staff at Rollins. We saw many challenges with this effort. In the state of Florida, there are 104 specialty tags, so the competition is fierce. In addition, Rollins College is a small liberal arts college without the employment, students or alumni base of large universities. For example, we have 1,700 students versus the University of Florida with 43,000. Also, our alumni and students come from all over the nation, but only registered drivers in Florida can purchase the Rollins specialty plate.

Objectives: Our objectives were: 1) to save the plate by meeting the 1,000 mark by June 30, 2006, 2) to raise at least a $5,000 profit (proceeds benefit the Rollins Fund for Students, which provides scholarships, funds, programs and services for students) and 3) to secure at least one media story on the effort.

Implementation: It was a phased communications and marketing effort. We launched a nine-month campaign, which included direct mail (two postcards in a series), advertisements in our alumni magazine, a dedicated Web page for all constituents (located at www.rollins.edu/tag), as well as targeted messages to employees, students and alumni. We realized that many alumni were probably unaware that we even had a specialty license tag, so the first round of communications (which began in the fall of 2005) was of an informational nature. Once we completed that round of communications (postcard, e-newsletter, Web, magazine – see attachments 2-6), we moved forward with the theme to save the “Endangered Species” (see attachment 7-11). At key events (such as Homecoming, Reunion and Commencement), we also distributed license tag key chains to encourage people to “Get Tagged” (see attachment 12). As a result of these efforts, we saw a monthly increase in the number of tags purchased. We were, however, still far from reaching our goal. The College also decided to reimburse all current students, faculty and staff the $25 annual tag fee for the first year. This helped, but had minimal impact (only 200 of our 650 employees took advantage of this offering). In April 2006, we launched a “grassroots” marketing campaign targeting current students, employees and local alumni. We walked the campus putting fliers on all cars with Florida tags that did not have a specialty plate to emphasize “time was running out.” Realizing that people did not want to wait in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), we literally brought the DMV to campus for “Save the Rollins Tag Day.” Elements of this event, our most successful of the nine-month campaign, included one-stop shopping with onsite registration and renewals, immediate $25 reimbursement from the College, free car washes and free lunch for tag holders. Tag holders also registered to win one of three Apple® iPod™ nanos. That day alone – in just four hours – we sold 100 specialty Rollins tags. We continued to promote the tag heavily in May 2006, including e-mails to parents suggesting the tag as a graduation gift, distributing promotional postcards to graduating seniors and we also held a subsequent onsite registration effort (which resulted in 40 additional registrations and renewals).

Evaluation: With regard to our original objectives:
1) In May 2006, we were notified that we had met the mark with 1,001 Rollins specialty tags purchased (see attachment 13). We met the goal six weeks early. Prior to our efforts, we averaged 40 plates a month. As a result of this effort, we secured 604 plates in eight months.
2) Over a one-year span, the specialty tags brought in a $16,000 profit (to the Rollins Fund for Students). This was more than triple our original goal of $5,000.
3) In the process of communicating with our various constituents, the media did several print and electronic stories on our efforts (see attachments 14-19). We distributed a photo opportunity on “Save the Rollins Tag Day,” (see attachment 20) which resulted in coverage on two local television stations (including local NBC affiliate WESH Channel 2 and Brighthouse Networks 24-hour station Central Florida News 13), as well as local NPR affiliate WMFE 90.7FM. When we reached the goal, we distributed a news release (see attachment 21), which resulted in coverage in the Orlando Sentinel and on Central Florida News 13. According to PR TRAK, a news clip measurement program, our nine stories garnered a publicity value of $46,345, circulation of 859,124 and 2,689,465 impressions (see attachment 22). This far exceeded our original goal of one media story on the campaign and helped spread the word and save the plate.

Budget: The campaign to save the Rollins license plate cost $12,000 (printing, postage, specialty items, incentive gifts, etc.). With the purchase of each specialty tag, the state of Florida returns $25 to the Rollins Fund, so the cost of the campaign was not only recovered, but we realized a profit of more than $16,000 (from June 1, 2005 to May 31, 2006). The return on the investment continues because annual renewals will bring in a projected $25,000 per year to the Rollins Fund for Students. Name recognition and pride enhancements are immeasurable and invaluable.