Is The Content Marketing Academy a cult? The truth about trust and service

You might have heard me talk about The Content Marketing Academy conference recently. I have been helping to get the word out about it. I might have said it’s the most important business event in Scotland. I may have even said that if you’re serious about communicating with your customers you owe it to them. That was all true. It might have felt a bit preachy, though. You could have been wondering, why should I trust you? Especially when it seems I am possessed by some kind of cult.

The event was on 2nd and 3rd June in Edinburgh. As advised – I had a brilliant time. I wish I could tell you it was nothing like a cult but that would not be true. Wikipedia tells us “A cult is a religious or social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices.” Let’s just leave the religious and socially deviant pieces be for a moment. I can’t speak to what happened after I left the pub. But a social group with novel beliefs and practices pretty well sum the TCMA crowd up. The ideas themselves are not novel but applying them to marketing is, at least in the UK. UK businesses tend to market by aggressive selling, a me-me-me narrative and an unwillingness to consider any activity that doesn’t have a one-step relationship to the bottom line.

For me, the overriding themes of the conference were trust and service. This sounds like it is coming back to a religious doctrine again. But at least it’s the positive aspects of religious doctrines. The key to being a good communicator is building trust and being in service to your community.

This echoes thoughts I have had permeating in my head for the last few months. How can I be of service to my community? In a wider sense, I have been thinking of my life’s purpose. I am not there yet but I have a wooly sense that for me, my purpose it to improve fairness in our community whether that’s about gender, race, disability, poverty or opportunity. It is absolutely clear that I do this through service.

To hear almost all the speakers mention trust and service was neither a coincidence nor part of a brief. But what does it have to do with business and marketing? And how can I take my agenda of fairness and a desire to serve my community in a day job?

If you want your audience to trust you, you have to consider several things. Are you being authentic? Are you being brave? Are you being bold? Are you thinking about their problems or are you thinking about your own bottom line? Providing content that helps, educates and entertains will grow trust if you do it consistently and honestly. How you do this was something covered in almost every presentation at TCMA. Consumers trust in businesses is at an all-time low. We tend to look for recommendations from friends. We scour reviews. We have low expectations. Building content around trust will help you with these issues and you will be remarkable amongst your competitors.

As for the day job… I work for a social enterprise operated and owned by members. It provides financial services. It addresses the needs of a community blighted by little trust in or access to banks, doorstep and payday lenders and budgets under strain by austerity. It also promotes savings and thrift. It encourages employers to look after the financial well-being of its staff. Every aspect of this work requires a large amount of trust between the organisation and the members. We also need to truly serve our members.

I knew that content marketing would play a role in how I helped raise awareness of the organisation and found new members. It is clear now that my focus on trust and service means I will obsess about answering members’ questions. I am dedicated to helping members achieve their goals. My work will align our communications to the lives of our customers.

If every TCMA delegate leaves with a similar motivation – to build trust and be of service to their audience, customers, community – then it’s a cult I am proud to be part of. If we are all dedicated to doing that then it is a cult doing good work, achieving success and changing lives. Ironically, we are all going to see an impact on our bottom lines too.


Trust is also a big part of the Content Marketing Academy community. Chris Marr, the founder, started this community and nurtured the early growth with free meet ups and a Facebook group. It has evolved into a membership community and as the interaction between members grows, Chris cannot continue to be intimately present at this scale. His job is now to provide guidance and direction. To facilitate interactions with world-class thought leaders and be scanning the horizon new ideas. As the members now work to collaborate, motivate and serve each other – trust is crucial. The community has to behave with honesty, dignity and integrity.

We saw this at the conference with delegates at all stages of their journey.  Current members and first-time attendees were all warmly welcomed and encouraged. Some members sponsored the event and delivered lightning talks. The support for our members talking was amazing. We all truly want everyone in that room to succeed. As the group grows continuing to be welcoming, fair and honest will be even more important. We will continue to hold each other accountable. I promise not to treat anyone as a newcomer. I promise to serve my fellow members.




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