Robert Ciandini use the authority principle to explain why we should believe what he is saying. He is “Regents’ Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the W. P. Carey School” so, not just a prof at one place, but a “Regents’ Professor at one, and a “Distinguished Professor” at another. Authority, he says, conveys persuasive power, and sometimes we aren’t as assertive as we should be in making it clear to our potential clients.
He cites a hospital physiotherapy unit that had trouble convincing patients to comply with the instructions. They believed the doctors, but didn’t do what the physiotherapists asked. The solution: Post al the degrees and credentials on the wall of the physiotherapy unit. Compliance increased 34 per cent, he writes.
“Here’s the interesting thing about that study,” Cialdini says. “It’s not surprising that people would follow the lead of authority. What’s surprising is that these physical therapists didn’t use what they had. They assumed that because they worked in a hospital and had the title of physical therapist, the patients would presume they had the credentials they actually possessed. People often assume that recipients of their influence attempts know certain things about them. But they don’t have a crystal ball. They can’t reliably know all that.”
Ciandini suggests authority can be conveyed through introductions and reference letters, which can explain credentials and reduce the discomfort from appearing to brag.
“Authority” explains the value of certification programs organized by some quasi-professional associations, including the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS)’s Certified Professional Services Marketer program and certifications programs provided by the Construction Specifications Institute and Construction Specifications Canada. These programs don’t require the arduous years of university-level study, but convey status and leadership relevance to graduates.
One interesting aspect of authority is when it is based on experience rather than formal academic credentials. I may have graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts in History but I saw how seemingly closed doors opened to me in 1981, when I told people I had just returned from Africa where I had lived as a journalist through the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe war’s conclusion. In the most extreme manifestation of this authority principle process, when I went to the federal government employment agency to search for work, a counsellor there offered me a job — with the agency itself.
Don’t downplay certification programs and your credentials when you are planning your marketing for yourself or your business. If you have them, share the news.