Ushering Them Off With Great Fanfare

I have read a fair number of articles about transitioning problematic board members off a board, but I have to credit Vu Le for laying out a relatively detailed process for accomplishing the task.  Le’s approach, which he terms the “Plaque and Sack,” requires essentially killing the board member with a ton of kindness.

I wouldn’t imagine it is 100% effective, but it is intended to help mitigate any negative repercussions that might result.  It is also meant to be used in extreme cases after much thought and consideration.

Basically, it involves identifying a high visibility event at which to honor the board member with an award for all they have contributed and accomplished, both with the organization and in the community.  The occasion should feel prestigious and significant and involve lionizing the honoree as a pillar, supported by a video montage of people likewise praising them as they retire from the board.

Le admits that perhaps the hardest part of the whole process might be swallowing anger and resentment while organizing the occasion.

9.Try to suppress your bitterness and resentment: I know it can be hard to watch someone get praised publicly when they have been terrible for the mission, but close your eyes to keep them from rolling, …

And that, my friends, is the art of the Plaque and Sack. Besides board members, it may work on difficult volunteers and donors. Again, do not deploy this lightly.


So You Want To Name A Stadium…

Via the Marginal Revolution blog I came across a piece analyzing the economics of stadium naming.   The basic conclusion was that if you see a corporation buying naming rights for a stadium, you should sell your stock because most of the time the company ends up under performing.

What got me to read through it was the promise that by the end  I would know:

How to decide whether a company you run or advise should buy the naming rights to a sports venue (e.g. high school stadium, college stadium, major league stadium, etc).

I was hoping there would be some differentiation between the benefits of sponsoring a high school or college stadium vs. major league stadium which might point to a possible benefit to a company for sponsoring performing arts venues and interior spaces. Unfortunately, the article only deals with major league stadiums and doesn’t cover college or high school at all. There is a promise of a more detailed analysis if you subscribe to the author’s newsletters.

Overall the analysis is interesting to read due to the context of why different company’s stocks under performed. Banks and financial institutions were bailed out by the US government. Energy companies profiled were involved with all sorts of scandals or were part of a sector that just broadly under performed.

There were two examples of companies that beat the overall trend and did better:  Qualcomm which stepped in when San Diego was desperate for funding to complete a stadium expansion. As a result, Qualcomm paid much, much less than they might otherwise have.

Target was the other example. Their deal apparently included additional enhancements that sponsorships generally don’t. Among them were appearances of NBA players at stores and potentially merchandise deals.

I have never really paid much attention to stadium naming news, but the insight the article provided about some of the arrangements and how beneficial it has been to the company stock† sheds light in an easily digestible format into an area which isn’t widely reported on.

†Since I frequently mention that not all measure of value are relevant, I feel I should point out that just because the stock for many of these companies didn’t do well doesn’t mean the naming arrangements weren’t valuable to the companies in other ways.

This Place Has Rats. But They Will Be Gone Soon!

I know for a fact that for at least 30 years now, market textbooks and classes have made the distinction between marketing and advertising/promotion the first definition provided.  That has pretty much been a useless effort because people generally think of the terms as synonymous.

I don’t expect to move that needle much at all today, but I thought I would share a recent post Seth Godin made on the topic to get readers thinking about their own practices.

If an exterminator puts signs and banners in front of a fancy house when they’re inside killing rats, that’s promotion. But it’s not good marketing.

Marketing is creating the conditions for a story to spread so you can help people get to where they hope to go. Marketing is work that matters for people who care, a chance to create products and services that lead to change.


If you have to interrupt, trick or coerce people to get the word out, you might be doing too much promotion and not enough marketing.

I especially like this first illustration he uses. While it isn’t a universally applicable example of the difference, it does make the point that what is good promotion doesn’t necessarily create an environment that is in everyone’s interests.

In the same way, a message of “come see this show” is different from “this is a place that provides an opportunity to share experiences with family and friends.” The latter is part of a narrative about attaining what people aspire to rather than selling a single specific product.

Has Anyone Achieved Minimal Viable Audience?

Seth Godin recently made a post with a suggestion that runs counter to concept that arts organizations need to broaden their audience.  He has made posts throughout the years about attracting the smallest “viable audience” for products, but this time he specifically applies the concept to classical music and documentary films.

His basic premise is that if you focus on pleasing the core fans, the result will be greater audience satisfaction.

The smallest viable audience for certain genres is very clear. That allows the creators of the work to be specific and to deliver on expectations.

The broader you seek to make your offering, the more likely you are to run into people who don’t care, don’t get the joke or are simply not open to being satisfied.

It’s not easy to record a symphony or edit Restrepo. But your work is more likely to pay off in audience satisfaction.

The keyword “viable” is the slippery element in this. It is pretty widely acknowledged that catering to the traditional audiences isn’t sustainable so there does need to be some expansion.  But there is also an implication in “viable” that you would stop once the audience was large enough to sustain operations. Or perhaps that you maintain a program focused on renewing people lost to whatever factors are contributing to churn in audiences.

The problem is, there really doesn’t seem to be anyone who has discovered the secret of attracting and maintaining a core sustainable audience. Not to mention that economic factors are constantly expanding the boundaries of what is required to be sustainable.

So perhaps the answer is that there hasn’t been enough work done at expanding audiences yet. And by the way, I am not specifically referring to orchestras or art film houses and producers as mentioned in Godin’s post.

I don’t deny his statement that there is a point beyond which you can not please everyone. I have definitely been in too many meetings where people have said “our market is everyone” and that simply can not be the case.

Arguably, there are probably some arts organizations people can point out that have developed a core audience to sustainable levels. I suspect that these groups fall at either end of the population density spectrum. Either there is a large enough population available to support the organization or the community is so small the organization runs a budget with few expenses.

Pretty much everyone else in between probably needs to work on expanding audiences to the minimally viable size which will likely mean providing programming in which people can feel invested.

But I am curious, does anyone have other thoughts on this? Are there more entities who are maintaining a viable, highly-satisfied core audience which allows creators to focus on a high quality product than I am giving credit for?