One of the most important goals of public relations-type communication is to secure “third party credibility.” This is when other people say wonderful things about you rather than your having to do it yourself.

When you do it yourself, you’re bragging and it’s tacky (always has been) and people ignore it. When other people talk about your importance and wonderfulness, it’s societal “proof” that you are important and wonderful. People believe what other people say about you, whether it’s good or bad, true or not.

Good “word of mouth” is the best thing your business can achieve. You’re not going to get it by bragging.

It’s a psychology thing.

Back in the day, when we wanted to guarantee people knew about us and why we were the right ones with whom to do business, we bought advertising. Advertising ensured that our message would be exposed to our target audiences. It was expensive, though. To get people’s notice takes frequency, and frequency (in advertising) takes money. Lots of it.

And, it wasn’t exactly third party endorsement. It was advertising. Period. There’s no free lunch in marketing, though bless us, we’re always looking for loopholes.

In days of pre-Internet, we secured third party endorsement by announcing our achievements and newsworthy stories via press releases and pitches to the traditional media. If the media presented you in a favorable light, readers, viewers and listeners automatically assumed you were important, credible and trustworthy. There were no guarantees that the media would spread the news, but when it did, the impact was impressive.

Low-budget businesses have always tried to get the word out to traditional media by disguising its advertising in press releases. It doesn’t work very well as a loophole — editors are hip to it and shut it down.

When the Internet came along, it opened the door for low-budget businesses to use free social media channels to promote themselves. Rather than strive for third party credibility, they’ve skipped the media relations and influencer marketing steps and have gone straight to the unfortunate tactic of telling the world how wonderful they are.

I’m so honored and pleased to have won this award… We’re so honored and pleased to have presented a check for $10,000 to a local charity… I’m thrilled to have been promoted to EVP…

You get the idea. The mistake with this “humble bragging” approach is that it has virtually no effect on your bottom line, because no one cares. Well, except for your mother. And maybe your board of directors. And well-meaning friends. And sycophants.

Even with the massive potential exposure available to us in the digital age, third party endorsement is still as important as it ever was for business success. It takes a lot of work and time to get it nowadays, but it’s most effective for achieving true success.