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Putting Lipstick on a Pig

December 1, 2017

As someone who’s written professionally for a number of years, I always try to avoid euphemisms, choosing vernacular the average businessman or woman understands. Instead of going back to the drawing board for each game plan, I like to hit the ground running by thinking outside of the box.

I’ll usually begin by going after customer-centric, low-hanging fruit, getting my manager’s blessing with subject matter, to avoid getting thrown under the bus. After years of working with difficult editors, I’ve found drilling down and touching base with management helps deliver more bang for the buck when the marketing department keeps moving the goal posts. For instance, last week, I got the following note from my senior editor:

“I got your email and wanted to let you know that you’re on my radar. This time of year, I usually don’t have the bandwidth to circle back around with all hands on deck; especially when there’s an 800 pound gorilla in the room. But that’s par for the course. I want to take time to run your idea up the flagpole to see who salutes, before you spend time getting your ducks in a row. While I understand that your idea has legs, I think it’s important to slowly move the needle forward by putting on the record to see who dances.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the synergy of your idea is a no brainer. We’re singing from the same hymn sheet. But, with our present workload, it’s important to write material that translates from apples to apples. It’s a win-win situation. Let’s not let the grass grow under this. Before I close the loop on this idea, I’d like to circle the wagons, spending time to peel back the layers of the onion to see what develops.

Being that it’s the end of the quarter, I’ve got too much on my plate to spend time looking under the hood when the bottom line suggests giving 110% elsewhere. Why don’t you ping me so we can touch base and take this discussion off-line? I’ll let you know if I think there’s a ROI, or if you’re just putting lipstick on a pig.”

Eventually, I got the go ahead to drill down to the next level, even though it meant initiating a lengthy root-and-branch review. The leverage helped us to avoid a paradigm shift in the value-added core competency that brought more to the table. As one of my law school professors once told me, “The scenery only changes for the lead dog.” Makes sense to me.


* Putting Lipstick on a Pig’ is a rhetorical term generally used in reference to someone who’s trying to make cosmetic or superficial changes on himself that clearly doesn’t deceive anyone.

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