Every Veiled Insult Conceals A Shit-Eating Grin

One of the real challenges of communicating solely though print is the inability to rely on body language or inflection to convey intent. Case in point, in his Huffington Post article from 2/16/2010 Michael Kaiser writes that he is sorry for causing any arts manager grief if their institutional stakeholders pushed back against proposed artistic cuts using Kaiser’s mantra that fiscal health and large, important artistic projects are not mutually exclusive…

Yet throughout the post, Kaiser tempers his contrition by recounting reconfirms the very same position of programming and marketing cuts as a last resort. In the long history of apologies serving as a vehicle for subtext reasserting whatever it is that got someone into hot water to begin with, Kaiser’s piece could certainly be considered a classic example. He opens up a little more in his closing statement.

“I am truly sorry that I have caused problems for my peers. My goal has been simply to make their lives easier by suggesting ways to increase revenue. It seems that I have failed.”

Wow. It’s like charientism had a head on collision with asteism. I only wish I had thought of it first.

Then again, perhaps I’m reading it all wrong (or maybe not). That’s the trouble with written word.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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8 thoughts on “Every Veiled Insult Conceals A Shit-Eating Grin”

  1. One of the problems is that Michael Kaiser’s definition of “marketing” is often not understood clearly. He recently spoke to arts leaders in San Antonio Texas and he made it very clear that when he was proposing increased marketing he was referring to what he calls INSTITUTIONAL MARKETING. This includes branding, social media and all sorts of marketing efforts that don’t cost money. He was NOT referring to purchasing expensive advertising. He has many brilliant examples of successful marketing plans that didn’t cost any money at all. The did require a great deal of creativity and effort.

    • That’s an excellent point Jack, many thanks for bringing it up! I’ve heard the very same material but it is something I take for granted but when you look at the business as a whole, there isn’t nearly enough movement into levering new media platforms.

      What I think Kaiser (and everyone throughout the cultural blogging community that have been promoting this notion for years) is a fundamental shift in the way we connect with our community and convert those connections into ticket sales and donations. In fact, this is part of the fundamental concept behind the Venture Project (which reminds me that I need to post an update on that soon).

  2. @Jack everything costs money. Branding, social media grassroots marketing, they all cost money. How do you brand yourself without advertising? Where does the brand design come from? What about the hours of the marketing and communications people?

    I’d love to hear marketing plans that don’t cost any money at all.

    Not that Jack or anyone here is saying this, but in similar fashion, I absolutely hate it when people/writers/managers say we’ll just have to be more creative and give 110%. As if it were that simple. (More creative perhaps, but that requires an organizational change, more money or different human capital. And giving 110% is simply, and mathematically, impossible.)

    I think the problem with Michael Kaiser is that he simplifies his positions. Understandable, as there is not much room in those short blog posts to elaborate, but he comes off as proposing increases in marketing without justification. He can, for example, give case studies, examples and metrics on how it has worked before.

    The problem isn’t simple and many aspects are interdependent. You can’t sway too far to one side (which is how many people perhaps take it), but keep in mind all the dynamics of the environment and the organization.

    I do agree, however, that there is a desperate need for a fundamental shift: in organizational culture and coming out of that in the way we connect to the community.

    • I don’t think anyone expects the goal of new media marketing to eliminate costs so much as marginalize expenses to the point of improved overall marketing performance.

      The point you’re making Marc (and correct me if I’m wrong) is to focus on the transition between traditional methods and reaping the benefits of new methods. how arts groups go about that shift as well as measure benchmarks and success will be as important as actual movement.

      • Whether anyone expects it or not, statements like “free publicity” or, like Jack, “marketing plans that didn’t cost any money at all” are creeping into the conversation and we need to be careful with that. It gets the same emotional response from me as musicians might get when an executive claims they only work 20 hours in a week… 😉

        Paid search advertising appears to be one of the most cost effective marketing methods. It’s also easy to measure. But it’s not free. Cost effective is the word.

        And yes, that was kind of what I was getting at. It’s not black and white, or black or white. All marketing needs to be integrated (offline with online, advertising with public relations, and so on). But I wasn’t just talking about marketing per se, I had overall management in mind.

        Not all eggs in one basket.

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