If as a child I happened to get a little carried away in proclaiming my achievements as being the greatest in the world, I could be sure to soon hear the phrase “self praise is no recommendation”.

At first I didn’t quite understand how my papier mache hot air balloon or chocolate rice krispie cake making skills could possibly be anything other than world class, but it turned out to be a very valuable lesson.

How easy is it to tell the world that you’re great? Very easy.

How easy is it to actually be great? Not so easy.

Do most people realise this? Yes, of course.

Even if people perceive your claims as more confidence than egotism, there’s the unfortunate matter of whether or not you’re telling the truth. So self-praise really isn’t any recommendation at all, ever.

Sadly, you won’t have to look far in the world of advertising, websites, company literature or even Twitter profiles to see self-praise at play.

“We’re the best”

“We’re number one”

“I’m an expert”

“The greatest doer of something somewhere”

I’ve even seen a few Twitter users proclaiming themselves to be a “great human being”, which takes self-praise to nauseous heights.

If it helps you have the confidence to do what you do by getting up in the morning and saying to yourself that you’re the best, then so be it – but the rest of us need a little more than your word to go on. This is particularly vital since people’s trust in what businesses say isn’t all that high.

According to a recent article in Marketing Week (1): “The Reputation Institute found that just 15.4 per cent of UK consumers believe what companies say in their advertising, with the rest neutral, disbelieving or unsure.”

So any trust in what you’re saying has to be earned – you have to show why you’re great, not just say so. The good news is that if you’re really so great, you’ll have plenty of evidence to prove it. Plus, there’ll no doubt be quite a few people who think very highly of you too.

What other people say about you is so much more influential than anything you might say about yourself.

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages survey (2) indicates that: “Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as earned advertising, are still the most influential, as 84 percent of global respondents across 58 countries to the Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy.”

All those years ago, it was a glowing endorsement from my class teacher that was rewarded with a Matchbox car of my choice – not my chocolate rice krispie cake boasts.

It’s also very likely that it’ll be the glowing endorsement from your customers, not you, that’s rewarded with greater sales success.

References:

1. Marketing Week: ‘Majority of UK consumers don’t trust brands’ advertising’
http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/sectors/technology-and-telecoms/news/majority-of-uk-consumers-dont-trust-brands-advertising/4010029.article

2. Nielsen: Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages
http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/reports/2013/global-trust-in-advertising-and-brand-messages.html