Some Advance Hindsight For The Season Of Discontent

When all is said and done and the field has moved past the conflicts defining the Season of Discontent, it will be surprising if hindsight doesn’t identify a profound and nearly universal lack of public relations and communication unpreparedness among musician stakeholders. To date, some efforts have been so ham-handed it’s akin to watching a trapped animal trash about in a net only to make their entanglement worse.

cutTo be clear here, communication methods and their content are mutually exclusive in this observation; but moral high ground notwithstanding, even the strongest of positions can be rendered impotent when implemented improperly.

One of the more egregious errors is a lack of brevity and one of my favorite quotes on the topic that simultaneously helps understand the necessary approach alongside the process is from Blaise Pascal (although this phrasing is oft attributed to Mark Twain):

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” 

Or if you prefer a more carnal route, then Dorothy Parker’s take (which itself is a witty turn on Shakespeare’s words) should drive the point home so to speak:

“Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”

A recent article from Neo Classical’s Holly Mulcahy titled PR vs. TMI suggests that these observations aren’t exactly lonely. The rash of labor disputes has left Mulcahy wondering if the classical music academic experience shouldn’t include instruction on how to communicate; especially if it is something like a letter to your orchestra’s board.

What do you think? Observations referencing specific examples would be particularly interesting so if you can include a resource link in your comment, that would be particularly useful.

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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