Arts Advice Travels Well for Publishers

Kaiser’s Advice to the Arts World Also Travels Well for Publishers

You’ve heard of Around the World in 80 Days? Michael Kaiser, the highly accomplished and admired president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., recently went around the United States in 450 days. Normally no great feat, but in this case his Arts in Crisis Tour hit all 50 states, finishing with totals of 69 cities, 83,000 miles, and forums with 11,000 artists, arts administrators and board members.

The purpose of Kaiser’s trip was to listen to the economic challenges faced by arts organizations and offer strategies and solutions to help them overcome those challenges. The Washington Post featured an article about Kaiser’s trip in its August 5 Style section, above the fold as they say. (But not above White House gate crasher and current Bravo Real Housewives of DC star Michaele Salahi, whose photo adorned the top of the section. You still have to sell papers, I guess.)

What made Kaiser’s trip special—as well as his book titled The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations—is the advice he gives. It doesn’t have to apply to just arts organizations. Check out this list of guidelines for economic recovery and stability that the Post printed from Kaiser’s book. (In parentheses are our addendums for the specialized information industry.)

– Do not reduce programming. Trim behind the scenes on discretionary items, such as staff travel. (Do not reduce the content you produce. Find new ways to package it. Look into webinars, virtual conferences and webcasts to educate and train your staff.)

– Plan ahead for four or five years, and then let the public know what’s on the drawing board so it will be clear that the organization plans to be around. (Not much of an addendum needed here. The goal is to inspire confidence in what you are doing as a whole.)

– Planning should be done by both large and small groups. (Again, almost enough said. I’ve worked at organizations large and small. The large one did not involve all its employees enough in thought processes, and the small one perhaps was too closed in. SIPA’s upcoming Fall Publishers Conference in Chicago would be perfect for the president of a small group like that.

– Develop collaborations with local artistic groups, museums and schools. (Develop collaborations with trade associations, diverse community groups, colleges—offer internships and don’t forget community colleges!—and yes local arts groups. Why not? Check their upcoming seasons—perhaps there’s a play about finances, an art exhibit about real estate or a local festival that needs someone on their organizing committee.)

– Find and train entrepreneurial managers. (Teach everyone in your company about dollars and sense; pass along your entrepreneurial spirit. That way, everyone will be on a similar page.)

– Develop new streams of revenue. (Some sentences transcend subject matter.)

– Make the board members ambassadors for the work being presented, as well as fundraisers. (Again, the idea here is to get out in the community, be it the local community or the online community—or both.)

Promote what you do best, Kaiser also advises. He is definitely someone to listen to. He has helped to erase large debts at numerous arts entities, including a $30 million debt at the Royal Opera House in London. Under Kaiser’s guidance, the Kennedy Center has become the centerpiece of Washington, D.C.’s burgeoning arts world. Its Millennium Stage features free 6 p.m. performances 365 days of the year, all webcasted live and placed in their searchable archives. It’s now quite a treasure trove. (Tune in Thursday for the excellent folk singer Erin McKeown or Saturday for the incomparable Marvin Hamlisch—The Sting, The Way We Were—leading the D.C. Youth Orchestra).

Oh, and about those 69 cities and 83,000 miles—it was almost all on commercial flights.

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Easy commercial flights will also take you to the aforementioned
Fall Publishers Conference at the
Chicago Marriott Downtown, Sept. 22-24.

Join the savviest movers and shakers in the
specialized information publishing business.

Talk about the issues that matter to you:
• Increased competition
• Information technology
• Cash flow
• Adapting a best growth model
• How to serve/sell information

Contact Kati Fritz at 800.356.9302 or
kfritz@sipaonline.com to make a reservation.
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