If I was the best symphony orchestra in the land and wanted everyone to know, I'd do it the way I knew best, up on the platform and blowing and bowing the competition away.
But highly strung old Wellington-based granny the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has decided a rebranding exercise is the way to prove it is better than its stroppy young Auckland rival, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
If it didn't involve taxpayers' money that any other arts organisation in the land would crawl over hot coals for, this would be good for a laugh. But given the permanent state of funding crisis in the arts community, wasting scarce dollars hiring spin doctors to put a rival in its place seems out of order.
On Budget night in May, four Christmases came in one for the NZSO when it received a $4.4 million boost to its $12.34 million base funding. The handout is to occur in $1.1 million stages over four years.
It was great news. So what did it do to celebrate? Rush up to Auckland and throw a free concert? Treat its musicians to some 21st-century scores? No. It drew up a "request for proposal" on Brand Strategy.
The confidential tender request document that has just landed on my desk explains that the decision "to redefine and refresh its brand" had been triggered by three factors. These were: 1. The appointment of a new music director; 2. The orchestra's adoption of a Maori name; and 3. "The rekindled debate in Auckland about the relative standing of the APO and the NZSO which suggests a need to define the NZSO's position in the New Zealand cultural scene".
The document goes on to propose "it is clear that currently there is some confusion about the NZSO brand, in Auckland particularly. From our perspective the NZSO brand should be synonymous with quality at a level that cannot be matched by the professional regional orchestras".
As the All Blacks have discovered at World Cup after World Cup, all the promotional hype in the world counts for nothing once the haka is over and you have to produce the goods. That's the thing about the performance arts. And given the NZSO's superior wealth, experience and talent, I can't understand what it has to fear. Even a loyal APO fan like myself would agree that on a good night, the national orchestra is the best band in the land. Though I certainly bridle at the claim that it plays at a level "that cannot be matched" by the APO.
But that's something for audiences to judge - without the assistance of spin doctors.
In March, NZSO chief executive Peter Walls was unable to resist swatting down his bouncy rival. It followed an innocuous comment by APO chairwoman Rosanne Meo in a Herald story looking at the "Wellington bias" in arts funding. She would, she said, "love to have the funding" the NZSO had so the APO could tour the Auckland region.
Professor Walls responded with a haymaker, saying to me later: "I didn't have much choice because we'd been directly attacked." In a written response he said playing second fiddle - the APO's allotted role in Wellington minds - was "an honourable profession".
There's long been a tetchiness in Wellington circles over the refusal of the APO and other regional orchestras to remain straitjacketed in their bureaucratically allotted place. That is, below the NZSO, concentrating on being the pit bands for ballet and opera performances. Thankfully for Auckland audiences, the APO has never bought into this restrictive model. That the NZSO is now calling in the spin doctors suggests the old girl is really twitchy.
Professor Walls denies the exercise is anti-APO, saying the rebranding exercise "is something all organisations do from time to time to rethink who they are and how they should be presenting themselves ... My dream for the NZSO is that all New Zealanders feel ownership of the NZSO as they would of the Black Caps or the All Blacks."
The board will decide on October 3 whether to proceed. For that to happen, says Professor Walls, it would have to be convinced that one of the proposals would produce "a significant return on our investment. In other words, we would look to the exercise to increase box office revenue in the immediate future." But not, one hopes, by bagging the APO.