Sep 14

Can a brand spread good taste in a tasteless society?

After a lengthy absence from advertising, the legendary Grey Poupon mustard is back with a new Facebook campaign.

BooboomustardThe new campaign's slogan is 'Spread good taste' and the strategy calls for pre-qualifying consumers to see if they're classy enough to join Grey Poupon's 'Society of Good Taste.' Aspiring Society members' FB profiles will be checked to “…see whether their proper use of grammar, taste in art, restaurant check-ins, books read and movies selected combine…” to earn them a coveted membership.

This may sound elitist, but I like it.

That said, will a society that embraces such trash as The Kardashians, Brittney and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo aspire to join a good taste society? And, even if some do, could they possibly pass the Grey Poupon test?

I think the campaign will play well among the One Percenters. But, I cannot in my wildest dreams see any significant percentage of the Under 35 crowd giving a damn. They may have loved the Wayne's World riff on the mustard maker's classic 1980s TV commercial, “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”, but few Millennials possess the intellectual wherewithal (or desire) to belong to a Society of Good Taste.

All of which leaves me thinking Grey Poupon has exacerbated a problem faced by other Baby Boomer brands from insurance companies to automobiles: knowing their core constituency is dying off, how do they reinvent themselves to attract a younger, edgier buyer with a different set of wants and needs?

I'm going to take Grey Poupon's Society of Good Taste challenge. But, I guarantee the vast majority of 20 Somethings won't. And, therein lies the marketing conundrum: how does a brand spread taste in a tasteless society?

Sep 13

The Empire Strikes Out

With New York City’s legendary marathon just a few weeks away, I thought it was high time Michael Samuels, an experienced marathoner addressed some of the more recent image and reputation issues of the New York Road Runners Club (all of which were self-inflicted.)

Today's guest post is by Michael Samuels, NYC native, PR veteran and self-proclaimed abuser of running shoes.

I have no actual data to back it up, but it’s a fair bet that a couple
of weeks ago nearly all of the 47,000-plus participants for this year’s
ING New York City Marathon gasped with understandable incredulity at the
email that they had just received from New York Road Runners. The email
coldly informed them of the organization’s decision to eliminate bag
check from the race.

BaggggJPG According to NYRR’s press release the decision was made with the intention “to provide our runners with the safest and best possible race-day experience.” Huh? I’ve been a competitive runner for over half my life and it never occurred to me that being forced to stand around in sweat-soaked clothing, exhausted in the frigid November air would be a positive race-day experience. I’m sure, if nothing else, it builds character but then again, so does completing a marathon! My safety never felt imperiled because of bag check either. You know what can be really harmful to one’s health? Hypothermia and pneumonia.

Instead of having access to a fresh change of clothes, money, a metrocard and a cellphone, participants would be given an orange and blue fleece-lined poncho and the opportunity to stand (and no doubt shiver) in line at one of the Call Home stations provided by the organizers. In the past, runners were shepherded toward the waiting UPS trucks lining the park. Wrapped up in a Mylar blanket with a shiny new finisher’s medal and a sense of accomplishment, runners would do a slow, but happy, shuffle to their belongings. Having run the New York City Marathon twice, the long walk to retrieve my bag was one of my favorite parts of the race. It gave all of us weary souls a chance to talk, laugh, compare aches and pains and congratulate one another on surviving a grueling day. So, without much, or possibly any, input from its membership, NYRR instituted a change in service at this iconic event after everyone had signed up and paid their money! If you bothered to read the fine print, refund is a topic that will definitely not be broached or considered despite the long and loud chorus of boos.

In spite of their assurances that they only had the interests of their members in mind, one can’t help but think that the only interest of concern was that of New York Road Runners. Many longtime members like me have watched, with a confused mixture of pride and dismay, as this organization evolved into the behemoth that it is now. I once saw NYRR as a collective of free-spirited running enthusiasts who promoted sportsmanship and camaraderie. Over the years, I have witnessed the mission change more toward the pursuit of fiscal rather than physical fitness. The organization has become  big, shiny, state-of-the-art and intimidating. Kind of like a  Death Star. Where I sometimes imagine President and CEO, Mary Wittenberg, black-caped and walking the halls Force-choking those subordinates whose lack of faith she found disturbing. Ok, maybe they’re not that bad just yet. But they have certainly plotted a course for  a galaxy far, far away from their original destination.

Running is big business; in 2011 sales for running shoes alone totaled $2.46 billion dollars. That’s up 6 percent from 2010. An increase of another 6 percent is expected in 2012. Running has defied the economic slump affecting most businesses, so I can’t really fault New York Road Runners for being proactive and going after their share of this bounty. I get it. I really do. I just wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of the runners who helped support  this organization when there was more lint than money in its wallet. Critics continue to grow more vocal in questioning NYRR’s sense of honor and commitment to the running community  as it continues to dress itself up as a non-profit when its behavior screams nothing less than corporation.

In my opinion, NYRR’s bag check policy is just one recent example in the trend of an organization or company forcing unpopular changes on the people that frequently and loyally use its products and services. Another example is the implementation of Facebook’s Timeline. In addition to the revised layout, the company went ahead and changed users’ default email to @facebook.com without their knowledge or consent. Months ago, Planned Parenthood made the head-scratching decision to stop funding breast cancer research. In spite of the fact that the many who supported the organization with their time, money or both did so because they either know or are themselves were cancer survivors.

It sometimes feels like the current zeitgeist in business these days is to view the consumer as this milquetoast who will not only tolerate getting sand kicked in their face, but can be coerced into paying for the privilege. In his 1961 essay entitled “Why Don’t We Complain?”, William F. Buckley lamented the decline of good ol’ American outrage. I think it has as much relevance today as when it was first published. Although, we have greater platforms to air our grievances, we often substitute real world action with online petitions and general kvetching via social media. But to be fair, the employment of such tactics sometimes do work, as evidenced by Planned Parenthood’s fundraising woes and NYRR issuing an embarrassed mea culpa and reinstating bag check for the marathon . This nation was founded by put upon people who had the courage to stand up and say, “Enough!” and promptly took their business elsewhere. Corporations and organizations, like spoiled children, need to hear "NO!" more often. For too long they’ve been under the misguided impression that they call the shots. That they can silence or simply ignore the objections of their customers when they decide to amend or eliminate popular policies or services. They continually fail to realize, much like the British long ago, that when Americans link arms and unite, they will huff and puff and, eventually, blow your house down.

Sep 12

To have and have not

1937-002-pho-haves-and-have-nots-vv600xAs is almost always the case with the monthly issue of PR Week, I learn more from Don Spetner's column than any other.

In his most recent precis, Spetner reflects on the amazing perquisites he received when, at the relatively tender age of 29, he was named an officer at an energy company.

Like every leader from Alexander the Great and Tiberius to Jack Welch and Dennis Kozkowski, Spetner grew attached to his perks (i.e. free gas, first class travel, etc.). But, sure as rain, he felt the loss when, after joining a different organization, Don was forced to begin paying for such perks from his own pocket.

I can relate. I labored for two large agencies that, like mega agencies past and present, featured a distinct caste system: those who had arrived and those who hadn't.

At the first, the entire New York office was closed for a full day to volunteer our services to the Bronx Botanical Garden. So far, so good. But, as we rank-and-file types filed into rickety school buses, the CEO and his entourage piled into his sleek, black Mercedes and sped to, and from, the distant venue. I won't reprint the epithets shouted by my peers as the CEO zoomed past our buses, but they weren't pretty.

At the second shop, I was the newly-named president and, as such, a member of the privileged class. I was told by the CFO that my private secretary would serve my breakfast and lunch on fine china and that, along with the CEO, I should dine in the latter's private dining room.

I didn't play by those, or other distasteful, rules (no doubt invented by Marie Antoinette). In fact, I would often join what the CEO called the hoi polloi at the J. Walter Thompson cafeteria, sometimes even bringing a sandwich back to my desk. Horrors! That didn't sit well. So, the CEO stormed into my office, closed my door and said, “Look Steve. You're no longer one of them. You're one of us, and should start acting like it. Stop rubbing elbows with the great, unwashed masses (he made himself laugh with that observation).” I didn't heed his advice and, for that and other alleged transgressions against the State, was sent packing 15 months later.

Spetner's pearls are highly relevant for two reasons:

 - They're reflected in the Red State/Blue State divide that's tearing our country apart. Many Red Staters are like the young Spetner, the Mercedes-riding CEO and the let-them-eat-cake potentate: they believe they worked hard to attain their perks and shouldn't have to share them with others. Most Blue Staters, on the other, appreciate what they're accomplished and are all too happy to spread the wealth.

 - A corner suite sense of entitlement, fueled by countless perks, can lead to the isolation and hubris that, in turn, has prompted so many CEOs to commit so many seemingly stupid blunders. Like rock stars and elite athletes, high-ranking agency and corporate executives believe the usual rules simply don’t apply to them. At best, that can create hostility. At worst, it can lead to organization-wide dysfunction and breaches in moral and ethical behavior.

I have a solution for the perquisite-entitled executive mentality addressed in Spetner's column: job swapping. Nothing will humble a CEO faster than sweating through a full day at the reception desk (Note: I did just that and reported on it in Jan '11; I have also had stnts as account executives here in New York, and in our London and San Fran offices.) or juggling the myriad assignments a junior account executive is required to perform to keep three or more accounts humming along.

I wish the powers that be at PR Week, the other trades and the senior executives who read our industry's trade publications would heed Spetner's words (and my suggestions). There's a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor in our society. And, there's a similar divide in PR between those who have, and those who don't. Both portend disaster and both need to be addressed.

Sep 11

Don’t take no for an answer.

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Dandy Stevenson.

Peggy-1Yesterday, Repman addressed Ryanair's CEO calling his passengers stupid. Well, if Ryanair is anything like Delta, then there are just as many stupid people working for the airlines as there are flying on them.

Last week I wanted to book a new flight using monetary credit with Delta for a flight I had canceled last month.

I started on their website armed with the old confirm code and two hundred digit ticket number, which I had been told were all I needed to re-book.  Well of course that didn’t work, so I called Delta’s reservation line and listened to that devilish machine that kept asking for “just a little more information” so he could direct me to the “right representative.” 

Three days later, I am connected to someone with a pulse and things move along swimmingly until I say I want to use credit. I am placed on hold, and after he eats his lunch, he’s back on the line and says the credit can only be used on a ticket of equal or greater value, and my new flight is less expensive.  Really? That wasn’t mentioned when I canceled the flight. Mr. Personality told me it was in the terms and conditions to which I agreed when I purchased the flight.

I jokingly asked, “What, it was buried in paragraph 14 on the third page?” His deadpan answer: “Probably.” 

Here’s where the adventure really begins. I asked him to direct me to that information on their website.  I felt this was critical enough information that it should have been mentioned when I was told I could re-book, and I wanted to re-read my terms and conditions. He said that was not possible. How can that be?  It’s there when you book your flight, but nowhere else. They appear and then disappear? I suggested we go thru the booking process and get all the way to the “click here” point and then we’ll read the rules and regs together and that way I can see what I agreed to. No, that won’t work, says he.

Every fare code has its own terms and conditions, and the chances of getting that same fare code back is not likely. But possible, I say. Yes, but it would take time. What’s my fare code?  Back on hold for a week or so, till he gets back on the line and spits out ‘SP64US’. OK, I say, how did you find out it was applicable to my fare code? You must have read it somewhere, so can you send that document to me? No. It’s not written on something like that.  Written on something like what- a piece of paper, or a computer? I suggested he send me a screen grab, a link, create a PDF and email to me or scan it in and email to me. I noted that in today’s space age, surely we could figure something out.  He said he just information he knew. If that was the case, why did he have to put me on hold? Told whiz-bang I was amazed that with so many different fare codes he knew this rule applicable to mine.

He was in a hole and kept shoveling, hoping I would give up. Not a chance. I was more committed than ever to getting the proof I deserved.

I’ll spare you any further blow-by-blow reporting of this time-consuming and constitution testing experience.  I recounted my sad story two more times, to two different supervisors. The first said she was not able to help, and I needed to call their internet help desk. I told her no way; I knew the help desk would just turn around and pass me back to reservations and I wasn't about to enter the second circle of hell.  I asked to speak to another supervisor. She said, “OK but they will tell you the same thing.”

She was wrong.

The second supervisor, (after two more lengthy periods on hold, during which she came back on to let me know was still working on the problem and had not abandoned me,)  said the first agent gave me incorrect information and I could use the credit.  Wow.  For the record, I would have been as satisfied (though maybe not as happy) if I’d just found someone who delivered said rules and regs in some form to me.

Lesson learned:  Don’t give up. If you believe you have a point, a request or an issue that merits attention, solution or explanation, stay on it and don’t back down.  Be friendly but firm.  Let whomever you are speaking know that as soon as they said “how can I help you” they signed onto a journey and nobody is going to sleep until things are resolved.  It takes time, patience and maybe a handful of aspirin but it beats the hell out of rolling over and playing dead when you encounter a corporate bully.

Sep 10

Are you a dream weaver, fence mender, or both?

Photo_verybig_5581I often chuckle when I see another chief communications officer or global holding company CEO say that PR has finally earned a seat at the table.

We clearly haven't; at least not the majority of us anyway. If you doubt me, just review the Goldman Sachs, BP or Johnson & Johnson scandals. Each proved one of two realities: the CCO was either kept completely out of the decision-making loop or, worse, was told to spin some feel-good tale to make the negative coverage about customer gouging, environmental rape and dangerous products, respectively, go away.

Ryanair is just the latest example of a major company without a CCO at the table (or, in the cockpit, if you prefer). In case you missed it, the low-cost airline's CEO just called his customers "idiots."

Michael O'Leary, who has pioneered such a la carte pricing delights as extra bag and exit row seat fees, and even threatened to charge passengers a £2 fee to use the on-board loo, is now tacking on a 60-Euro fee to passengers who fail to print their boarding passes before they arrive at the airport!

One passenger 'aired' her complaints about the fee on Facebook and Ryan struck back hard, writing: "We think Mrs. McLeod should pay 60 euros for being so stupid." Ouch. That CEO just said his customers are stupid and deserve to be charged extra for making stupid mistakes. Holy damage control, Batman!

I guarantee Ryanair's PR person is having a bumpy ride right now. The media love stories about large, uncaring businesses taking advantage of the little guy. And competitors have got to be capitalizing on O'Leary's blunder to lure Ryanair fliers away (i.e. 'We liken Birkhahn Air passengers to Einstein and Edison. Flying with us is a brilliant decision').

Until, and unless, PR folks are more fully engaged in product design, customer service and CEO commentary, we'll never be credible in claiming to have earned a seat at the table.
(Note: And if you'd like to know why the cheapest and most effective public relations is, in fact, extraordinary customer service, I strongly suggest you read Frank Eliason's new book @Your Service. It'll arm you with the ammunition needed to explain why PR SHOULD have a seat at the table).

A smart chief communications officer would have spotted the intrinsic image and reputation  dangers inherent in a Ryanair's la carte pricing and, if nothing else, created a crisis plan that would have muzzled O'Leary and prevented his outrageous comment. Ditto for whoever was at the helm when Goldman, BP and J&J went South.

The sad truth is that most chief executive officers STILL see chief communications officers and PR firms in one of two simplistic ways: dream weavers or fence menders.

It's high time we stop proclaiming victory and start realizing we're STILL not immersed in two of the most important parts of any business: product design and customer service.

I wouldn't call us idiots. But, I would call us naïve.

Sep 07

Why did Avis stop trying?

20100825131530After 50 years of being known as the rental car company that tried harder, Avis has abandoned its famous slogan. The new tagline? 'It's your space'. I kid you not.

The number three rental car company (Enterprise is number one and Hertz holds the number two slot) decided it was time to re-position the legendary brand and appeal to “…corporate, rather than leisure, travel,” said new CMO Jeannine Haas.

Oh.

So, tell me, Ms. Hass, how does ‘It's your space’ inspire the powers that be at, say, Peppercom to suddenly choose Avis instead of our current rental car of company of choice, Budget? It doesn't. Not by a long shot.

Besides abandoning a superb tagline that doubles as a brilliant value proposition, Avis has selected three words that make more sense for a furniture company selling BarcaLoungers.

If the brand was really looking to shed the ‘We try harder’ work ethos, why beat around the bush? Be bold. Be brave. Tell the world you're mad as hell and not willing to try harder anymore.

I'd suggest:

– 'You've given up and so have we.'
– 'Sloth. Try it. You'll like it.'
– 'Do you care? We don't. Let's talk.'

Note to Ms. Hass & Avis: I'd be willing to license my personal brand motto which, I believe, you would positively adore. It's short, memorable and promises your customer the exact opposite experience as that nasty, old and tired we try harder line. Are you ready?

– 'Avis: Expect Less'

Expect Less is a game changer, Ms. Hass. Unlike Its your space, which means nothing and promises nothing, Expect Less tells the customer oh-so-much.

With Expect Less, you can justify your company's fall to third place. You can explain away shoddy quality and service. You can even leverage my tagline to undercut Enterprise and Hertz and become the low cost provider:

– 'Pay less? Then expect less.'

Brilliant, no? I need to go into the branding business.

I'll bet Avis paid Leo Burnett Communications millions of dollars for the clunker that is ‘It's your space.’

Hire me, Avis, and I'll sign away rights to 'Expect Less.'  You can even pay me less. And, drum roll please, I'll try harder.

Sep 06

Say it ain’t so

Roosevelt cartoon
I’ve been forever fascinated by Theodore Roosevelt.

I loved learning about T.R.’s youthful trials and tribulations in David McCullough’s ‘Mornings on Horseback’.

I envied Roosevelt’s undaunted courage as told through the words of Candice Millard in her superb ‘River of Doubt’.

And I was amazed (and grateful) to learn of Teddy’s foresight in protecting America’s environment after perusing Douglas Brinkley’s ‘The Wilderness Warrior’.

So, you can imagine my shock and disgust in discovering that Roosevelt was a white supremacist, who singlehandedly laid the foundation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Korean War and the rise of Communism in China! At least that’s the premise of James Bradley’s shocking book, ‘The Imperial Cruise’. Teddy, say it ain’t so!

Bradley is no novice to writing. His two books about World War II are considered classics. In fact, Clint Eastwood (yes, the old guy who recently spoke to the empty chair at the Republican Convention) thought enough of ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ that he directed and produced a major motion picture that brought the riveting tale to life.

Bradley said he researched and wrote ‘The Imperial Cruise’ because he wanted to know the origins of the War in the Pacific.

In his truly jaw-dropping tale, Bradley paints T.R. as a product of his environment. In the late 19th century, says Bradley, all upper class whites considered the Aryan race to not only be far superior to every other one, but predestined to dominate the globe. They justified their imperialistic ways with such jingoistic slogans as "carrying the white man’s burden," Manifest Destiny, and others. First, Native-Americans fell prey to Westward-moving European whites. Later, having conquered the 48 contiguous states, the U.S. seized Hawaii and, then, the Philippines. Bradley’s stories of atrocities committed by white Americans in the name of progress are deplorable to say the least.

Bradley quotes Teddy as describing black-Americans as “…a perfectly stupid race.” T.R. was equally contemptuous of Asians, calling them “Pacific Negroes” who were incapable of governing themselves.

That said, T.R. thought the Japanese were superior to Koreans, Chinese and other Asians. He saw them as an Asian version of the Aryan master race.

Roosevelt encouraged the Japanese to embark on their own imperialistic ways and become “…the Great Britain of the Pacific.” He even secretly supported Japan’s invasions of Manchuria and Korea, respectively and, later, their war with Russia. Roosevelt not only sold out the Koreans, says Bradley, but bent over backwards to broker a peace treaty that was lopsided in favoring the Japanese over the Russians (whom T.R. saw as “backward Slavs”). Nice, no?

The Imperial Cruise was a diplomatic mission T.R. arranged in 1905. On board the S.S. Manchuria were Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, his daughter, Alice, and a team of Congressmen. Their assignment? Forge an agreement with Japan that would literally divvy up Asia between the two countries: a clandestine and wholly unconstitutional act. The skullduggery fell apart because, in brokering the peace agreement between Russia and Japan that, ironically, would win him a Nobel Peace Prize, T.R. refused to make Russia pay war damages to Japan. That ‘betrayal’ set in motion Japan’s anger towards the U.S. A betrayal, says Bradley, that set the stage for World War II, The Korean War and the Communist Revolution in China.

In Sasha Baron Cohen’s movie, ‘The Dictator,’ a fictitious Middle Eastern potentate, Admiral General Aladeen pays a visit to New York City. Reveling in the sights and sounds of a ticker tape parade, Aladeen sighs, “Ah, America. I love it. Built by the blacks and owned by the Chinese.”
I wonder what T.R. would make of the Chinese (and the success of other “Pacific Negroes”) were he alive today?

Sep 05

REPCHATTER PODCAST: What women want

Inspired by the recent story of a Wall Street Journal researcher who Tweeted a marriage proposal to his West Coast-based girlfriend we decided to ask soon-to-be-married Peppercom women to share their engagement stories with us.

In addition to being creative and funny, some of the Peppercom proposal stories were downright poignant. (Lia LoBello went through an entire box of tissues in retelling how her fiancé finally popped the marriage question after a seven-year waiting period.)

Co-host Deb Kleur-Brown-Kleur and yours truly pulled no punches in uncovering such other gems as whether:

  • The beau dropped to one knee to pop the big question.
  • The big moment came as a complete surprise or was more predictable than Paul Ryan’s Republican Convention speech.
  • It went down in a public or private setting.
    – The big lug first asked the girl’s father’s permission (I did, for the record).

The big takeaway was the ladies’ anti-Jumbotron sentiments. Single Peppercom girls DO NOT want to be asked for their hand in marriage in front of 60,000 Yankees fans. And, neither would I, for that matter. I’d much prefer the intimacy of CitiField. In fact, I’ll bet the 500 or so die-hard Mets fans who still attend games would have hung on my every word (and, been able to hear them in the far reaches of the upper-deck bleachers without any amplification!).

Anyway, please click on the link and listen. Whether you’re a guy in search of creative ways to pop the question, a young woman who’s been waiting forever for that special someone to drop to one knee or, like me, already sizing up the future, fifth ex-Mrs. Cody and wondering if the act of proposing has anything to do with the marriage’s future success, you’ll find something for everyone. And, just wait until you hear poor Deb’s proposal story. You’ll need to ask Lia for an extra box of tissues to just get through it…

 

Sep 04

There’s no maybe in business

The
other day I asked one of our executives whether a client profile would be
appearing in The Wall Street Journal. "Maybe," she responded.

Maybe.

Carly_Rae_Jepsen-Call_Me_Maybe

The
word just sat there and stared defiantly at me. Eventually, it provoked a
visceral response from me, "Eva’" I wrote, "there’s no maybe in business."

I
loved the phrase, and have asked our lawyers to trademark it ASAP, hoping those
lost souls on FB, Twitter and LinkedIn who, lacking an original thought, could
include it when they publish someone else’s words of wisdom (note:
inspirational quotes need to go! If you don’t have a POV, don’t spam me with
one from Locke, Edison or, even worse, Joel Osteen).

Back
to the matter at hand, though, there are far too many maybes in business. To
wit:

-     
A
prospect contacted us recently, and asked us to pitch their business. When we
asked for details, the point person replied, "We may be making a change in our
agency of record status." Oh. We declined to participate, suggesting they
contact us when maybe changed to will.

-     
I
once asked a Drew University intern whether she’d completed a research
assignment. She sighed: "Maybe." Nonplussed, I followed up with, ‘What,
exactly, does that mean?’ She rolled her eyes to the sky, and sniffed, "Look,
dude, I just spaced on it, ok?" To which I said, "Look, dudette, you’re fired,
ok?"

-     
Armed
with a breaking news story that cried out for a client’s follow-up analysis, we
dialed our contact and asked if the CEO could address the subject. "Absolutely," she responded. Thrilled, we asked if we could arrange some
interviews. "Maybe," she said. Taken aback, we asked why we couldn’t jump on
the opportunity. "Because Mark is golfing today, and I’m thinking maybe he doesn’t
want to be disturbed," she confessed. To which I sighed, "Then, why did you
hire a PR firm in the first place?"

Of
course, there are other times when maybe is the ideal answer. To wit:

-     
Many
years ago, I was part of a pitch team that was in the midst of wowing a
prospect. Having been badly burned by a large agency promising front page
stories in every leading business journal, the prospect was very wary of
guarantees. Our CEO arrived late to the pitch. I began briefing him when he
interrupted me and boasted, ‘We can get you on the front page of the
Journal!’  So much for that new business lead.

-     
Just
about every prospect asks if we guarantee our results. The best answer is nope
since, in a free society, no one controls the press (Fox and MSNBC
notwithstanding, of course). But, a maybe will suffice (i.e. ‘Well, if we can
provide references and bottom-line focused customer success stories, there’s a
good chance we can generate the publicity you seek. But, it’s up to your sales
team to close the deal, not us.’).

-     
A
senior hire once asked us how soon he would receive equity in Peppercom. The
conversation occurred after only a year or so of mixed reviews on his part. "If, and when, you begin delivering major clients, we’ll discuss equity. But
even then, it’ll be a maybe," we said. The executive didn’t care for the
response, and moved on. And, we were both better off as a result.

So, what’s your take on the word maybe? When is it appropriate and when
is it a complete cop out? I’m a black-and-white kind of guy. So, when I spy an
e-mail with the word maybe in it, I typically see red. Unless, of course, it’s
from a team member replying to a client request for guaranteed sales leads.