Disingenuous MOA

There’s been a substantial amount of online discussion about the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) Domaingate debacle since Emily E. Hogstad made it public on 8/21/2013. In the wake of that realization, the MOA has provided some rationale behind purchasing 13 domain names associated with typical audience support efforts during labor disputes, but it raises more questions than answers.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-085The 8/22/2013 edition of NPR.org quotes MOA Director of PR, Gwen Pappas, confirming that the organization purchased the domain names in advance of the lockout as part of a larger strategy (emphasis added).

The total costs of the 13 domain name purchases, each bought for two years’ registration, were $325, and were paid for by MOA funds, said Gwen Pappas […] Pappas added that such purchases are “common business protocol in any organization,” and that these 13 are among approximately 40 total URLs owned by the MOA. She said that management was already anticipating that negotiations were most likely going to be difficult, and considering that the orchestra was at that point already facing a $6M deficit, the intent of the purchases was to find a way to “protect the institution and share our messages.

Since 2008, there have been a several best practice articles here at Adaptistration advocating that employers should purchase a unique domain name in order to communicate the organization’s official bargaining strategy and serve as a central resource for communicating related institutional messages. Conducting these efforts off the primary domain name helps maintain the institution’s long term integrity, promote an overarching sense of stakeholder unity, and makes it easier to erase emotional copy crafted in the heat of the moment from search engine caching.

From that perspective, the MOA’s decision to purchase the domain names could be construed as positive since Pappas’ statement references sharing the MOA’s message as official rationale.

The problem here is that the MOA never bothered to actually use any of those domain names; instead, each one points to default placeholder pages generated automatically by the host, GoDaddy.com. And in direct conflict with recommended best practice, the MOA has opted for using the official institutional website for delivering their labor dispute related messages.

As of 8/25/2013, minnesotaorchestra.org’s homepage was dominated by content dedicated almost exclusively to promoting the executive committee’s bargaining position and what might be considered in some circles as heavy-handed stakeholder bashing.

Add to this the decision to purchase two year domain registrations when the one year option would have been sufficient (not to mention less costly) and the MOA’s leadership finds itself hip-deep in a raging river of disingenuous corporate double speak.

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 “Disingenuous MOA”

  1. The MOA’s press statements would have been a lot more believable had they not purchased 5 domain names that did not include the word “Minnesota”. Registering generic domain names like “savetheorchestra,com” and “saveourorchestra.net” looks to be more of a calculated measure to head off the ensuing backlash from a potential lockout. Because all of this happened several months before the actual lockout, I tend to agree with those who assert that the MOA has been bargaining in bad faith from the very beginning.

  2. As I have noted before, in simple language, MOA is lying about everything. At what point does this become a serious issue? Would it be when stakeholders are losing their homes and breaking up families to stay alive? I understand that negotiating has become a contact sport, but must it be a fight to the death, or do we want to keep the combatants alive so that we call all fight again in three years?

  3. Drew, your point is, as always, very well taken. It is crystal clear what the MOA has been up to for a year now, and at the same time so frustrating that there is no mechanism to compel them to change. (Hence, that rant I sent you a few months ago.) Bravo to everyone who is calling them on it. Perhaps our unified voice will eventually prevail.

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