Success Stories And Denver

There are two topics for today’s post; the first is a pointer to the second of my two blog posts the 2011 National Arts Marketing Project blog salon. This one, titled Success Stories, focuses on the bear traps arts orgs should avoid in the form of relying too much on vendor provided statistics.

As it turns out, success stories (even the ones that are completely accurate, transparent, and without exaggeration) are a convenient device for vendors to promote technology solutions as the tipping point in improved marketing performance, but technology is only one component in those efforts.

Your technology solution should provide the framework for your team to do their job without said technology getting in their way or slowing them down.

Even the best technology solution is still merely a tool and it takes capable professionals with an effective plan to maximize the benefits of a good platform. For instance, I’ve had plenty of clients that had the right people with the right plan in place who were able to bring about success with even the most limited technology solutions at their disposal; it just took a lot more effort than it should.

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The second topic for today is the recent decision by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) to cancel eight of their Masterworks Series concerts over the next two months. According to an article in the 10/5/2011 of the Denver Post by Kyle MacMillan, the CSO will continue with educational activity as planned.

Will the board departure open a door to new opportunity?
Will the board departure open a door to new opportunity?

Granted, MacMillan’s article is a little thin on details and there is no information at the CSO website about the reasons why they decided to cancel that particular set of concerts in light of the fact that their greatest success in recent years has been via increased ticket sales for traditional concert offerings.

What this decision demonstrates is the recent departure of two-thirds of the CSO’s board had a large enough impact on immediate cash flow that this was what the institution decided was best solution. It should come as no surprise that the group wasn’t able to fill that board gap in any immediate sense but it is fair to keep in mind that the board exodus’ impact could be entirely reversed by the end of the season.

What I mean here is there may very well be high enough levels of donors out there avoiding CSO board service due to the presence of certain board members. Sure, it’s a bit high-school but we’re all grown up enough to know how things work. Consequently, when combined with the number of open seats and the departure of certain individuals, the vacancies may provide the existing CSO board with an easier time attracting those high level donors.

In order to do that, they’ll need to work harder than before at building institutional unity and continue reminding the community why the institution matters; such as continuing to put on terrific concerts that break attendance records (out of sight, out of mind may not be the best solution in the long run).

Likewise, the remaining board members will need to identify whether or not the mover and shaker candidates exist and present a plan on what they intend to do in order to attract them.

So in its own way, the crisis has some unusual opportunity if the remaining stakeholders can find it within themselves to identify those board candidates and rally behind a short term strategic vision with enough gravitational force to draw them in.

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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