VCU Rice Rivers Center | Brand Strategy & Communications Plan

In a Nutshell

The VCU Rice Rivers Center, part of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Life Sciences department, is a environmental research field station situated on the banks of the James River. I worked with another strategist and an art director to develop a new brand and a targeted communications plan for the organization.


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The Problem

The VCU Rice Rivers Center (RRC) is an important part of the university but is located outside of Richmond, 24 miles away from campus.

RRC knows how to talk to researchers and academics about river research, but they’re not great at communicating their value to the average Richmonder, especially since they’re out of sight and out of mind.


Research + Strategy

Richmonders knew about the sturgeon restoration work happening in the area, but they didn’t know VCU Rice Rivers Center was behind it.

Richmonders knew about the sturgeon restoration work happening in the area, but they didn’t know VCU Rice Rivers Center was behind it.

We conducted interviews with Richmonders, VCU students, and professional watermen to arrive at our insights:

  1. People care about the benefits of river research, but they’re not considering the work it took to get there.

  2. People are aware of RRC’s work, but RRC isn’t getting credit for it.

Whether it was clean water, fresh seafood, or a great kayaking experience, almost everyone we talked to had a benefit that they were passionate about. And despite knowing about initiatives like the Oyster Shell Recycling Program, few Richmonders had heard of Rice Rivers Center.

Strategy: VCU Rice Rivers Center needs to claim ownership of the positive outcomes of river research by putting their name on the results.


Vision + Mission

We created vision and mission statements that are clear and inspiring (improving on their original vision statement which was a long list of hyper-specific organizational goals).

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The Creative Brief

I was inspired by NASA’s cultural relevance and the badges they use to brand their individual missions. I told our art director: Let’s get people as excited about river research as they are about space exploration.

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New Branding

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We refreshed the branding and modernized the logo, as an homage to RRC’s forward-thinking research.

We also created a dynamic logo system that ties together all of RRC’s research initiatives, so their projects share a visual identity.


Communications

We created a robust communications plan (snapshot at the bottom of the page) with strategies for targeting three different audiences: Richmonders, VCU students, and river professionals (watermen, kayak guides, etc.). Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

Data Dashboard: Before and After

VCU RRC has a dashboard full of river data that is updated every 15 minutes. With info like water temperature, clarity of the water, and wind speed, this is a gold mine of information for any river-goer.

Unfortunately, the original design and shorthand made it nearly impossible for a non-scientist to understand. We redesigned the data dashboard so the average Richmonder could use it.

The original data dashboard

The original data dashboard

Our simplified data dashboard

Our simplified data dashboard

Local Weather Report Partnership

We wanted to position this river data where people are looking for it. We contacted the local NBC12 meteorologist about including some of this data on the weather report and putting RRC’s logo up on the screen. He was really interested in the idea, and it’s likely this partnership will become a reality.

Oyster Stickers + Table Tents

There are 60 restaurants that participate in the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program. By putting the Oyster/RRC logo on the restaurant doors and on table tents, we can spread awareness for the program and RRC to Virginia foodies.

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Team
Caroline Moyer-Kardos (Strategist)
Kaitie Kovach (Strategist)
Joe Jones (Art Director)