Business Etiquette

“Business Etiquette” is defined as the polite conduct expected among peers, colleagues and others as a means of creating and maintaining harmonious co-existence in the professional world. It’s about the expectations for business behavior we hold as a group.

We adhere to these codes of behavior in business for several reasons, one of which is the care and feeding of our personal brands. Break the rules, and you run the risk of offending the very people who keep you in socks and underwear.

Often, rules of social etiquette carry over into the business world, such as table manners, dress code and how long you stare at a person’s business card before you stick it in your pocket.

We often take the excellent business etiquette of others for granted, but boy, do we notice when someone breaks the rules. I’ve noticed quite a few violations of polite conduct lately:

  • Not returning a colleague’s phone call within 24 hours, or ever, maybe.
  • Not responding to an email, if even to acknowledge receipt of it.
  • Failing to stick to the :30 second rule your hostess established for your self-introduction at a networking event.
  • Attempting to sell your wares at a networking event without having paid for exhibit space, or before you’ve established a warm connection with the person you’re talking to.
  • Not allowing the other person to speak during a phone conversation. Every time you try to butt in to ask a question plays havoc with cell phone reception.
  • Making someone feel like an ass publicly or while in a meeting.
  • Failing to respect the cultures of other countries while doing business.
  • Being consistently late to meetings.

The list of the rules of etiquette has expanded quite a bit since everyone got a mobile phone. Don’t have it out during meetings or meals. Don’t use it in tight, crowded spaces like grocery lines or elevators. Don’t take a call when you’re with another person.

Let’s always be striving to show respect for one another. Breaking the rules of business etiquette means single handedly contributing to the misery of others.

Do you have any favorite examples of poor business etiquette?

 

5 Important Protocols for Speech Rehearsal

How many times have you rehearsed a speech by mumbling the words to yourself while flossing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror?

There are many important steps when preparing for and delivering a good speech, whether you’re giving a 12-minute TEDx talk or a 60-minute keynote. The most critical part, however, is the way you rehearse.

Here are five stages of the rehearsal process that the big stage professional speakers use to prepare for keynotes:

Rehearse Out Loud — It’s a Speech!

When you’ve finished writing and polishing your script, put your pen down. Now it’s time to make your speech an audible and visual embodiment of your thoughts. No more “reading it to yourself.” Read it aloud every time you practice, even before it’s memorized. The words of your script are a whole lot different on the page than they are coming out of your mouth!

When you first start reading aloud, you’re going to discover awkward phrases and sentences that make you trip over your own tongue. Edit your script accordingly so that the words flow more naturally. You’ll also get a sense of which words to emphasize and where you should pause for maximum dramatic effect.

AND, muttering your words under your breath while you memorize and rehearse doesn’t count. If you feel self conscious by practicing out loud, don’t worry — you’ll get over it! I used to be embarrassed to rehearse in front of my dog.

Rehearse Standing Up

While you’re memorizing, stand up. Engage your whole body when you speak — your arms, your legs, how you get from one place to another on the stage. When you memorize standing up, your words and body movements become ingrained, like muscle memory.

The most exciting speeches are given away from the podium. As a great speaker, you are a performer who connects with the audience body and soul — without dependence on Powerpoint slides and physical barriers.

Rehearse in Front of a Video Camera

When/if you rehearse in the front of a mirror, you’re not seeing what you actually look like to others. Your reflection is what you see. Moreover, you’re more uptight in front of your own reflection because rather than feel what’s going on with your face, you’re posing to please yourself and then judging the way you look.

Try rehearsing in front of a video or computer camera instead. You’ll get a chance to see yourself as your audience will see you. You’ll notice any unconscious quirks you have (we all got ’em), what your face is saying, how you’re moving your body, and opportunities for saying things differently or how you can move your body to display more confidence.

Rehearse for Many Hours

If you’ve spoken before, you’ve learned that limiting yourself to a couple of quick rehearsal sessions before your presentation is a terrible thing to do for yourself. Typically, your lack of preparation is obvious to the audience and often shows up in the comments of audience evaluation forms. I winged it for years, and noticed I was getting comments like, “Too much rambling,” and, “Ran out of time.”

The more you prepare, the better your speech will be. And the more you speak, the more highly skilled and entertaining you become. TEDx speakers often report having rehearsed 50 hours or more for a 10-minute talk. Professional public speakers rehearse every day. That’s true of any great skill, isn’t it?

Rehearse in Front of an Audience

You’ll never know how well your speech affects the audience until you have rehearsed in front of an audience. Before you give your “real” speech, do yourself a huge favor and perform it in front of live human beings. If you can, do this rehearsal in a space that’s close to the type of space you’ll be speaking in. When I’m in the final rehearsal sessions with my TEDx speaking clients, I actually put down a red, circular rug and we rehearse on a local stage. Of course, your living room is fine if that’s the best option.

I use a lot of humor in my speeches, so for me, it’s absolutely imperative to have a rehearsal audience to see if my jokes work and whether my content makes sense. It’s wonderful when your test audience laughs at your jokes and understands your material. It’s a drag when they don’t, but now you know what to fix or cut out.

I wrote a passage for a speech once that followed Professor Harold Hill’s cadence when he sang, “You got trouble, my friends, right here in River City,” from the classic musical, “The Music Man.” Everyone knows and loves “The Music Man,” right? After I performed it in rehearsal, several audience members asked me, “What’s the music man?” So I cut the bit.

If you can’t gather a large group of people to watch your rehearsal, consider having a speaking coach or speaker mentor be your audience — they will be objective and honest on your behalf and guide you to being even better.

Good luck, and have fun!

5 Ways to Lose an Audience

Has your appeal to large audiences been trailing off lately? Are you getting fewer and fewer “likes” or “shares” on your content — none, maybe? Ugh. We all struggle with it.

We can blame changing algorithms, insufficient SEO, and the ever increasing shrieking noise of the online marketplace. But if your sales have been flat since Q1 2016, then consider something else — you, yourself may be to blame.

There are lots of ways to attract an audience, but there are even more ways to drive them off. I call them “audience repellents.” Here are five that I see most often:

(1) Bragging and Humble Bragging

Whereas, “bragging” is a self-inflicted wound, and “humble bragging” is pouring lemon juice on it.

We don’t like braggarts at a cocktail party, so it stands to reason we don’t like it from businesses, either. Humble bragging is bragging online about your business accomplishments, but pretending to be modest while you’re doing it.

A business humble brag usually starts with the words, “We’re just thrilled to announce that…,” Or, “We’re so humble and honored to have…”  

We all like attention for our business achievements, but when bragging is the main substance of almost all of your public interaction, and you feel you have to brag to get people to notice you, you become repellent in the minds of your audience.

I don’t think perpetual braggers are deliberately trying to turn people off.  You might think that your audiences will be impressed and even love you MORE. But actually, the OPPOSITE is true!

There is a Harvard business study that proves that people dislike and lose respect for companies and individuals who brag, and especially who humble brag. 

So, lighten up on bragging and opt for achieving “3rd Party Credibility.” People believe what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself. Send out a press release so that the media can make your announcement. If you’ve won an award from an entity, let the entity make the announcement on your behalf. Hide it on your website somewhere.

Just resist the urge to run out into the town square and shout, “Look at me! Look at me!”

(2) Failure to Connect and Engage

You can visit many social media business pages, websites and posts and see nothing but brags and self-serving sales messages, as if social media itself was created just so marketers could advertise for free. You will also observe that there’s not much of an audience there, either.

To attract an audience, you need to make the bulk of your communications strategy about delivering the information they want, not what you want. If someone’s not interested in you as an organization or as a solo professional, they certainly won’t care about your sales agenda.

(3) Failure to Understand Your Audience

I learned this the hard way, back when we were trying to make our rock band famous. More often than not, in order to pay the rent, we had to play gigs to please audiences who were more into hearing Top 40 music than any of my original tunes.

Once we were booked as an opening act for David Brenner, and his audience comprised the blue hair casino crowd who lived for Frank Sinatra and yelled “turn it down!” when their grandkids had the radio on.

Anxious to show off on a big stage, my band played mostly our original rock tunes. After each one, all we got were golf claps. But when we played “The Rose” at the end, back then a top-of-the-charts ballad, we got a standing ovation.

There’s something to be said for “givin’ ’em what they want.”

(3) Giving Up too Soon

It takes time, and lots of repetition, to get people to notice you. Unless, of course, you’ve just landed a jet in the Hudson River without killing anyone.

And by time, I mean months, even years. There was a saying long ago: “Just when you’re getting sick of your own messaging is when people start paying attention.”

Keep your communications frequent, relevant to your audience and consistently value-driven.

(4) Your Website Isn’t Media Friendly

Never forget that the “media” is one of your most important audiences. The people most likely to tell others about you and give you mass exposure are journalists, editors, TV producers, radio talk show hosts, podcast hosts, and thousands of bloggers. They’re always looking for experts to interview.

To research your company and judge whether you’re credible, they’ll look at your website. If you don’t have an online press room providing the kind of information a journalist needs to do his/her job, they’ll probably blow you off. Either that, or they’ll search LinkedIn for your leadership’s LinkedIn profiles. No LinkedIn profiles?

They will move on to another company or expert who has their act together. It wasn’t you.

(5) Failure to be Passionate about Your Brand

An audience-attracting brand regularly expresses genuine  passion for something greater than itself. 

Apple has a passion for beautiful design. Nike is passionate about athletes. Harley Davidson is passionate about freedom and adventure. Ben & Jerry’s is passionate about the earth and the environment.

Get your positioning team back together and commit yourself heart and soul to ONE ideal you can stand behind. Your passion is a magnet for people who share your values, because it inspires trust and a sense of loyalty.

A business without authentic passion resorts to humble bragging.

I am thrilled and honored that you have read this post.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-Itis

This might be another dumb human story. It’s certainly something we all have in common. Maybe it’s even hard-wired into our DNA. The problem is, it can cut us off at the knees without our ever knowing it.

It’s called, “We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-itis.”

It hurts us because it blocks us from greater possibilities. It keeps us blind to solutions of problems we didn’t know existed. It certifies our ignorance. Some people are aggressively assertive that they know something, when they don’t.

It affects our business in negative ways. It insults the experts. It limits our options.

And there’s no cure — as far as I know. Because we don’t know we’re missing anything. It’s insidious. Cruel. And, it’s not our fault.

Case in point: Figuring I could record my songs by myself at home if only I had the right audio equipment, I purchased Pro Tools, a high quality audio recording software often used in professional music studios. I loaded it into my Mac.

I thought this would be a cost-effective solution. I wanted to be able to get ideas down immediately, especially the choirs of voices or tsunami of strings that often ran through my mind. Thus, like any consumer, I wanted fast and easy. I knew there would be some learning curve, but had confidence I could master it in a short amount of time.

Keep in mind, I’d had NO previous audio recording training. I had produced tracks in sound studios for years, but never touched the audio mixing board. The board (to me) looks like the cockpit of an alien space vessel.

Ha! The Pro Tools screen on my Mac also looked like an alien ship’s dashboard. I was in big trouble.

Enter my friend, Jim Salamone, of Cambridge Sound Studios in South Philly. He’s produced some of the greats: Grover Washington, Jr., Bon Jovi, Teddy Pendergrass, and many more. Jim and his producer/engineer, Todd Mecaughey, have forgotten more about music production than I’ll ever know.

So, I asked Jim and Todd if they would tutor me in the art of Pro Tools sound recording. Bless their hearts, they were so patient with me, but I learned through them that you can’t fly a jet without hundreds of hours of training.

Jim told me this happens a lot in his line of business. People underestimate the huge amount of expertise required to work magic in a recording studio.

People also underestimate how many hours of preparation it takes to do a truly wonderful and inspiring TEDx talk. They underestimate the difficulty of writing a book — a GOOD one. They underestimate the hours of preparation a consultant does before they walk in your door. There are many examples.

I want to live in a world where people concede they don’t know everything, and where they show automatic respect to the professionals and experts who have mastered their crafts.

I welcome you to weigh in and share any experiences you’ve had with people who underestimated the width and breadth of your experience and training.

Why Imperfect Actions Make the Best Stories

Harry S. Truman said that, “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”

Most likely, he said this because he noticed that most people won’t try to do anything they think they can’t do perfectly on the first try. It’s also called “perfection paralysis.” It happens to writers a lot. It’s the leading cause of writer’s block.

It happens to everyone who begins to drift out of the “comfort zone.”

Then, a teacher or mentor comes along and says, “Gosh darn it, just write whatever comes to your head. All first drafts are sh*tty, no matter who you are. Get your thoughts down. Be messy!”

I’m in a program with 30 other high achievers who are intent on taking their speaking careers to the next level. These are amazingly accomplished people from all walks of life. An astronaut, several best selling authors, successful serial entrepreneurs, healthcare gurus, world travelers, big stage keynoters — and me.

One of the projects for the keynoters has been to draft a 45- to 60-minute keynote speech, which is about 6,000 words. And many of us were initially stuck, because we have a lot invested financially and emotionally in creating spellbinding presentations.

Even a room full of unquestionably talented industry experts were defaulting into the fear of taking imperfect action.

Because the reality is, when you have a big footprint and take imperfect action, the critics and haters come out, not to praise you for your courage and stick-with-it-ness, but to point out your imperfections and question your worthiness.

The corporate world is eons away from being supportive of imperfect action. So the creatives often get boxed into “safe zones” with well-defined parameters that discourage innovation and risk.

Because most of us speakers are in business for ourselves, we can try out all kinds of crazy ideas, and whether we win or lose isn’t important. It’s the bold act that counts in our culture. For instance, trying a new joke at a speaking gig. Sometimes, the audience will bust their sides laughing. Other times, they’ll look at you like you’ve just eaten a bug. Later, you can laugh about it, because of the support of your comrades in arms.

But our freedom to “just be me” was hard-earned, because most of us started our careers in soul-killing corporate cultures that punished, not rewarded, imperfect action, until a kindly mentor reminded us of our worth.

I’m in the infant stages of launching a series of humorous, 2-minute videos on YouTube. And so far, they’re awful. I can tell, because no one has said anything. Not even friends and family. That’s bad. But I don’t care. I’m going to keep taking imperfect action until they’re good — good enough that people tell me they’re good, and good enough to make the haters come out.

These videos are deliberate, imperfect action, because I am going to keep the project going until they’re good and have a huge following, and then I’ll write it up as a case study to give hope to other creatives everywhere.

Why not take imperfect action today, and then share your experiences via your blog or some other story telling vehicle? It’ll have struggle, conflict and an inspiring resolution — the stuff good stories are made of.

 

 

 

My TEDx Talk Transcription

Delusional Self Promotion: The Bridge from Ego to Empathy

If you’re a business communicator in the digital age, you know more than anybody how important it is today to connect with, and deliver real value to, the people who matter to the success of your business.

 

Unfortunately, this guy didn’t get the memo. You may have run into this guy during your business travels, and you soon realized that he wasn’t there to connect with you, no. The only thing he wanted to do is sell you something.

Now if you haven’t met somebody like this guy, I’m going to paint you a little picture. This is a true story, starring me.

So, I’m at this networking event. I have to admit, I’m not that comfortable networking. I’m an introvert, but I can do it when I need to, and I know how important it is. But it needs to be a comfortable thing, and this guy looked really friendly. So I summoned up all my courage and I went over to him, and I extended my hand.

His name tag said “Sam.”

“Hi Sam. How do you do? My name is Dana.” My handshake was firm and confident, like it’s supposed to be. But his handshake was like sticking your hand in a rock crusher, and he broke every bone in my hand. But he didn’t notice I was wincing because he wasn’t looking at me — he was looking through me, scanning the room for his next victim.

Well, this made me really uncomfortable, and I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go to the emergency room, actually. But instead, I stuck it out, and I decided to talk to him some more because I was fascinated by this point.

“So Sam, what do you do?” I remember him giving me some kind of 30 minute spiel. He didn’t talk about a product or service. He rather he talked about himself a lot. I smiled, and I nodded, and I seemed to be very interested, and I reflected back, “Oh yeah? How many? Yeah? Wow.” We exchanged business cards. Then I drew in some breath so I could tell him about me, and what I do. But before I could get the first word out, he turned and walked away. He walked away from me. From me! I was flabbergasted.

Don’t you know, like a few days later, I got an email from this guy addressed to, “Dear friend,” trying to sell me something. I hit the delete button so hard my neighbor’s computer broke.

You know, if people like Sam treat people face-to-face the way he treated me during that awkward face-to-face encounter, imagine how he behaves online where people like this have access to more than 200 free social media channels, and they push themselves out everyday to potentially 10,000 people or more. When he’s really hyped up, he blasts email into your inbox, which forces you to hit delete, delete, delete, which could lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and not a little bit of loss of faith in the future of humanity.

You see Sam, which rhymes with spam, is a taker. He doesn’t give back. He talks, blah, blah, blah. He doesn’t listen. The only thing Sam is interested is in advancing his own agenda. When you’re with him, you wonder if he even sees you as a human being or just a means to an end maybe.

I’ve pondered this kind of behavior over the years, he’s not the only one. There are other people like him. I wonder, do people like that stay in business? Did he even have any customers who weren’t friends or relatives? I see it all the time. There are so many people who go into business, and all they talk about is themselves. Blah, blah, blah.

But I’m going to give him some slack. This is what people are taught. They’re taught that aggressive self-promotion is the way you’re supposed to grow a business. But you see, that’s old school thinking. Times have changed. Of course with every change, there is a little bit of chaos, some confusion, and a whole new set of challenges.

For example, there is more noise circling the globe than there has ever been in history. Yet we as business people still have to find a way to cut through that clutter and convey to people that we’re the best people to do business with. But we have to tread lightly because we don’t want to seem inauthentic.

Another challenge is it takes time, real time, to get people to know they can trust you. But the waiting makes us anxious. I mean, we have bills to pay, right? So we slip into default mode, which is shouting our promotional stuff from the rooftops again, 24/7, 365, “Me. Me. Me. Me.” It’s as if we’re thinking, “Hey. If I can just shout loudly and often enough, customers are going to just jump right into my lap.” But the harsh reality is today’s consumer is immune to that, and the sound of their silence is deafening.

If you really want to attract attention to yourself in this digital age, you’ve got to think and communicate in a whole new way. It might seem counter-intuitive, but believe me, it is so much more effective for achieving your business goals.

Now I don’t … I hate to be the one to say this. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t want to sound like the school yard bully, but you need to know — Nobody cares about you! But you know who they do care about? Themselves, right? It’s human, it’s natural. We’re built that way. We can’t help it, and we all think that we’re the center of our own universe.

Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be cared about, right? So now we’re thinking, “Well, how do I promote myself and have people care about me and show them that I care about them in return?” Well, here’s a little hint, something to think about; the more we rely on technology to communicate, the more people crave real, heart-felt human connection. We seek out people to do business with, not some faceless corporation. We decide if a business is trustworthy by how sharing its experts are, and how much we feel they care about us, and the community, and the world. That’s where the E-word comes in –empathy.

Demonstrating empathy is one of the most important ways to show people that you care. It’s about sharing, exchanging ideas, it’s about listening to them, it’s about understanding their pain, it’s about solving their problems, it’s about treating others better than you treat yourself. Don’t focus solely on yourself, you don’t have to do that. Just stop drinking your own cool aid, spit it out.

Publicly recognize the achievements of others. Make them laugh, tug at their heartstrings. Model for them how to lead safe, happy, healthy lives. Every time you can, tell a great story. Empathy and value are the oxygen of commerce in the digital age, and I have a vision that if we can all change our mindset away from “me, me, me” to “you, you, you”, fewer businesses will fail, and greater goodness will expand into the universe.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether to walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Every business has to decide that, too. So let’s choose the light.

Hey Sam, are you listening?

Thank you.

To view this TEDx talk on YouTube, click here.

How One Big Thing Changed My Business

I did a little hibernating over the holidays to de-stress and rethink my professional life.

After my TEDx talk in November, a tsunami hit me — extreme fatigue, anxiety, self-doubt, and genuine confusion about what I was supposed to do next in my life. Doing a TEDx talk is a tough act to follow.

I let this ride for a few weeks, just letting it be. I didn’t resist it, just fell into it like a trust exercise. I’ve lived long enough to know that these kinds of episodes usually result in epiphanies. A big “aha!” moment was coming, and it was being processed at the deepest level of my subconscious. All I can do at times like these is to wait patiently until the answers bubble up from within.

Well, did they ever.

The reality is that I’ve been working so very hard over these last few years, toiling in the mines, wrestling with bears, conquering fears and making mistakes. And you know what? Much of it just wasn’t fun anymore.

My deep, inner voice told me to relax and have faith. It assured me that I was going through the necessary self sculpting and chipping down to the essential me, a peeling off of layers and the unplugging from the matrix.

Letting that stuff go was painful. I was molting — shedding the outer shell to make room for new growth, Michelangelo at a block of marble, “chipping away all that wasn’t David.”

And that’s okay. Well worth the trouble, I’d say.

Another epiphany was, strangely, a productivity tip. All the business books I’ve read over the past two years said that “focus” was a common attribute among successful people. It meant staying with one task until it was complete, instead of doing what I usually do: make a to do list, check emails, start a project, go get coffee, clean up my desk, start a different task, check emails, check Facebook, do laundry, write down brilliant ideas, write a blog… and then, voila! It’s dark outside, and I haven’t made a single step toward my vision.

So here’s what I’m doing now, and it’s making a huge difference in what I’m accomplishing each day. Using my planner, I break down visions and goals into manageable tasks and schedule them out into daily sessions (or small bites). Then, I set the timer on my phone for one hour and give myself to work on that ONE thing for the next sixty minutes. I allow nothing to break the bubble. When the timer goes off, I can either keep going if I’m in the flow (which happens a lot if I’m writing), or move onto something else after a 15-minute break.

My favorite thing is I’ve allocated one hour every morning for reading. My second favorite thing is the most important things are getting done, better and faster.

What I’m saying is nothing new. This is simply my testimonial in praise of the method.

Surrendering to change, and focus. What an extraordinary, pleasant way to start the new year.

From My Heart in 2017

Anyone who knows me is aware of the specific and numerous challenges I’ve survived to be where I am today.

But really, who hasn’t?  Everyone reading this email has endured challenges, torment, heartbreak and disillusionment. When I was younger, I thought the universe had singled me out for special punishment. It’s a silly and self-centered illusion.

Truth is, every human lives through heart-wrenching experiences. Deciding whether to live or die is what matters. And when you choose life, you realize you’re “allowed” to pursue your heart’s desire — if you’re willing and able to do the work.

I’ve thrown away the need to judge or compare myself with others. Instead, in this chapter of my life, I’ve decided to do what my inner nature compels me to do, as wild as I want. And in 2017, I feel as if I’ve removed a few more restraints. In 2018, I’m going to let the horses out.

Today is the last day of 2017. If you’re consciously “aware” and if personal development is your lifelong quest — and if you see your business or career experience as a part of that quest, realizing that the two are inextricably intertwined (i.e., you can’t leave your soul at the door when you walk to your desk), then 2018 is going to be an amazing year.

Why do I say this?

  • Major cultural shifts are changing the way we do business. It’s forcing us to re-evaluate what’s keeping us stuck and re-invent our business models and personal brands.
  • We have more freedom than ever to try new things when we communicate with the world. Can’t write? Make a video. Can’t video? Take pictures. Not a photographer? Do a podcast. Can’t podcast? Spend more time engaging in social media. Then there’s the “thing” that hasn’t been invented yet.
  • Entrepreneurs are realizing that in order to survive, one ought to have multiple streams of income. This enables one to dig deeper into the trunk of their inherent skills and abilities and find ways to monetize them.

Whoo hoo, right? Will there still be let-downs, fears and failures? Sure. It’s part of the package.

Here’s a good plan for 2018: Hold tight to your vision. Put one foot in front of the other, knowing persistence is the key. Hang around people who are smarter than you. Embrace/explore new technologies to remain relevant. Understand that success is a marathon, not a sprint. Make healthy living a priority. Read a lot. Don’t compare your progress to others, and don’t care what other people say about you. Be your true self, quirks and all.

I’m so happy that you are in my life. Thank you for your goodness and support. It’s a privilege to witness your success. Here’s to another year!

Brag Busting

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.

Blog Creation Tip: OPW (Other People’s Words)

This is a quick tip for anyone who doesn’t have a blog because they:

a) can’t write

b) hate to write

c) don’t have time to write

d) don’t have anything interesting to write about

So here’s a good one — interview people! Have a Q&A session with someone who’s interesting, has particular expertise, owns a popular local restaurant, is someone you admire — any one of a million people and subjects your audience might find interesting.

If the interview is face-to-face, record it with your phone or a digital recorder. You can also record remotely using a free conference call service, Skype, and others.

Transcribe the interview. I use an online transcription service that charges $1.00 a minute. Clean up the text so that it reads smoothly and eliminates any parts where the conversation strayed off topic.

Ask your interviewee for a headshot and short bio. Add it to the beginning of the interview, after you’ve written a brief introduction.

Aim for one interview a week, then tell your contacts in social media that the blog is now available on your website.

Voila! It’s an interesting piece of content that took minimal time, strengthened your relationship with the interviewee, is something your interviewee is likely to share — there are so many great strategic benefits.

I do this all the time, and am happy to answer questions.