Chicago’s Latest Tourism Ad Is A Stark Reminder About The Importance Of An Effective Government Affairs Committee

TimeOut Chicago published an article by Clayton Guse on 8/21/15 that examines a 15 minute city tourism from 1977 juxtaposed against a 2015 counterpart. Granted, if the only media from the 70s era to survive the millennia is the “Chicago Is” ad, future humans will have a superb idea of what that time period was like, but what should catch your attention in the here and now is how the 2015 ad is completely missing any reference to the Chicago Symphony or the Lyric Opera of Chicago whereas those elements serve as a fundamental element from the 1977 counterpart.

Adaptistration People 022No, those groups aren’t missing from the 2015 ad because classical music is dying or irrelevant (but don’t be surprised if you hear exactly that coming from voices inside the Chicken Little Think Tank), rather, it is a good indication of underperforming Government Affairs committee efforts.

We’ve examined the value of Government Affairs committees in previous articles but after two decades of consulting, it never ceases to amaze me just how few arts organizations have a standing government affairs committee and of those that do, how peripheral they are in the overall board committee hierarchy.

In a nutshell, an effective government affairs committee will have enough of a positive influence on law makers and local bureaucracies to make certain that whenever those individuals consider legislation, programs, or initiatives that impacts the arts sector, they instinctively think about their constituents from a protective mindset and pick up the phone to call their arts based government affairs contacts.

In the case of the 2015 tourism ad, even though it is substantially shorter than the 1977 version, effective government affairs work would have marginalized the potential for being left out of the spot. Having said that, it takes time to build relationships and begin seeing a return on those investments but that’s not a good enough reason to avoid establishing a committee or turn a blind eye toward one that is only marginally effective.

1977 Chicago Is…

Zip forward to the 7:16 mark for the section on performing arts.

2015 Chicago Epic


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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