The Content Marketing Academy Conference 2015

By Kevin Anderson | All Posts

Sep 06

7.15am on the Dundee-Edinburgh train.

I’ve been deliberately frugal since launching the business. I’m working from home predominately, but also find I’m able to write quite easily in coffee houses, the local library, hotels and at my clients own offices. I don’t need silence to operate. In fact I think some ambient background noise is a good thing. Now, I’m writing on the train. I wasted money on an office when I had my first business. In fact, I wasted an awful lot of money on pointless things that didn’t add value. Now I’m operating the business by being ‘ducks arse’ tight.

But today I let go of the purse strings. I’m attending my first conference since launching the business. It’s the Content Marketing Academy 2015 event in Edinburgh.

There is a variety of speakers from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common – much of their success has been driven by content marketing. As a freelance copywriter & content writer, it is the perfect event for me to lose Square Tree Marketing’s event virginity.

5.55 the homeward journey

I’m on the train home after The Content Marketing Academy 2015 conference. Years of attending corporate events, sales kick offs, and other industry shindigs have taught me to keep my expectations low. I suppose you could say I still have an inbuilt cynicism, that is difficult to shake. I went into today’s conference hoping to take away one or two pieces of advice, maybe some ideas or a new concept that I could apply to my own business. I left with considerably more than that.

As I walked the few hundred yards from the COSLA building to Haymarket Station, my mind was racing. I’d taken copious notes, snapped a few pictures and absorbed the stories from the speakers. I know that I’ll never be able to remember every story, every anecdote or wise word, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that each gave me at the very least one gift. And those gifts, when combined add up to one thing – a far more inspired version of myself. I’m at risk of having my very own ‘Tom Cruise on Oprah’ moment, but I’m writing this ‘filters off’.

Today will go down as the day my business changed forever.

The Content Marketing Academy community is already established, and I have, until now been a silent admirer from afar. I was nervous about going along today as there are several big personalities within the group, and I feared I’d be in the all-too-familiar position as feeling like an outsider. Someone who doesn’t belong. People that know me, and I mean REALLY know me, will find this surprising. I come across as a very confident person, but like so many people, I still have those huge moments of self-doubt.

Also because I didn’t attend yesterday, I felt like I missed out, not just on Marcus Sheridan’s amazing workshop, but on the opportunity to meet & establish relationships. All the cool kids will have formed their groups, and I’d be that awkward kid on the outside looking in.

But that wasn’t the case. I saw a few familiar faces and found it much easier than usual to strike up conversations with strangers. I think this is for two reasons. First – everyone was there for the same purpose, to learn more about content marketing and second – I’m comfortable to proclaim what I am – which is a copywriter and content writer. (You can read about me ‘coming out’ as a writer here.)

I’ve devoured a huge amount of content marketing content from books to blogs – videos to webinars. I’m a believer; a convert from the World of traditional media that knows content marketing is the single most powerful way to grow any business. Today, I entered the church for the first time. The rest of the congregation came from all walks of life, from different sectors and with varying levels of experience. I felt a sense of belonging. These people – are my people.

So what specifically did I take away the day?

My Own Content

Ironically, as someone that loves to write – I’m not creating enough of my own content. I’ve been writing plenty of content for my clients, and I’ve used that as an excuse for not writing for my site. That changes NOW.

I was arrogant.

I only bought my ticket last week as the list of attendees didn’t blow me away, which is ironic, as that’s exactly what they did. Let me explain. I only saw one marketing agency (Velocity Digital) on the list of speaker. I expected to see more. Who was Karen Strunk, who was this fella Richard Tubb and what who exactly was this ‘Sales Lion’? In my defence – this was programmed from going to large Internet Marketing events from my time at D.C. Thomson. But I got that all wrong. Very wrong.

The nature of Content Marketing is that it’s inclusive. It’s FOR everyone & it’s FROM everyone. A hardened B2B chap such as I can learn so much from an American that made his living selling swimming pools in Virginia. From an IT consultant turned blogger and yes, from a dominatrix turned personal branding, coach.

The Wikipedia of….

I need to become the Wikipedia of content writing. I love to write content for clients, and it’s how I make my living, but I’m well aware that not everyone wants, or can afford to outsource their writing. But I can serve the large audience that wants to create their own content by providing useful, free content that adds genuine value.

Think Bigger

I’ve not been thinking big enough. I can become a teacher, a coach or a mentor to the large and growing band of true content marketing believers that need support with their content writing efforts.

Be The Connector

I need to focus on helping other people first and as Richard Tubb said so powerfully – ‘Be the connector’. Not as a tactic, but because it is the right thing to do. Thanks Richard.

I am who I am

I need to embrace my personality. I could relate to Karen Strunks message about being authentic, genuine and true to yourself. She lives and breathes her message. Ten months ago I was off work with stress, on medication and felt utterly doomed. Now I own my own business and am doing what I love. From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in a year. Thanks so much for sharing Karen.

I am who I am (part Deux)

On a related ‘personality’ note. I’ve always been told I should have been a comedian. I take that as a huge compliment. That came about from me sharing my mostly embarrassing tales inspired on my personal blog. They were inspired by the writing of David Sedaris. I love making people laugh – there is nothing like that. Gavin Oattes so skillfully and hilariously showed me that you can use humour to deliver a powerful, lasting message without in any way diluting its strength. I need to use my natural personality more in the content I create. Thanks Gavin – you delivered the perfect opening to the event and helped create the positive energy that framed the event.

I’m the Dummy

Stefan’s inclusion was freakishly well timed. I’ve avoided many of the traditional networking events, on the pretext that they don’t work. Ironically I know that they do. But it was my lack of self-confidence that was holding me back. I’m going to do three things. Buy his book (Business Networking for Dummies), take his advice and seek out more opportunities to establish deeper relationships. Thanks Stefan.


The Names McGrail, Mike McGrail

Mike at Velocity Digital taught me that it’s OK not to love LinkedIn! I love that a social media marketer doesn’t have to love every platform. The ‘James Bond esque’ targeting of competitors Facebook Likers wasn’t something I’d considered, but again is something I’ll certainly be trying. I scribbled so many notes and picked up so many tips from this session. Thanks Mike.

The Sales Lion


Marcus Sheridan. OK, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect and the tagline – ‘The Sales Lion’, did make me wonder why he was a keynote speaker at a Content Marketing event. I was wrong (notice a theme folks!!). He was the most engaging, energetic and authentic presenter I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. If COSLA was the Content Marketing Church, then Marcus was THE Content Marketing Evangelist.

Marcus Sheridan’s words will change my business and my life. I will have a dedicated post about Marcus, but for now – thank you Marcus. You are an amazing man. I wish you and Danielle many happy adventures and encourage anyone reading this to visit Your emotional closing address touched me. I wrote a blog post called ‘Travelling With Jamie – The Short Walk to Freedom’. You inspired me to write it, and as such I dedicate it to you, Danielle and, of course, my own little trooper Jamie.

Final Reflection

Chris Marr has created a unique community and delivered the best business event I’ve ever attended. The perfect blend of knowledge and inspirational motivation – it will live long in the memory. It’s given me the direction, and the drive to do more, and to be more.

For that, I am eternally grateful.


About the Author

I'm Kevin Anderson, the captain of the good ship Square Tree Marketing, an average husband and father to three highly entertaining boys.

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(17) comments

Caroline September 7, 2015

What a brilliant sum up of the event, I had such an amazing two days and am so glad you came along Kevin. Chris has done a brilliant job in pulling us all together and inspiring us to succeed !

    Kevin Anderson September 7, 2015

    Hi Caroline,

    You’re spot on, Chris really has done an amazing job. A pleasure to be a part of a group that I think can achieve great things.

    Thanks again for your kind words.



Richard Tubb September 7, 2015

Kevin — what a powerful blog post and a fantastic write up of what The Content Marketing Academy 2015 was all about. I got the same vibe from TCMA as you did — it felt like something very special and I think that’s because, as I alluded to in my presentation, it wasn’t a group of strangers coming together under one roof as you might find in a typical Conference. This was different. This was a community of people who knew, liked and wanted each other to succeed — and it showed. Wow!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wish you the best on your business journey!

    Kevin Anderson September 7, 2015


    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my post. I’m so pleased I made the decision to not be quite so tight fisted!

    Just a fantastic experience that I’ll never forget.

    Many thanks again,

Nick Arthur September 7, 2015

Great article Kevin. Like you I’m a bit cynical about these things and I wasn’t expecting much from the event which is why it had such a profound effect.
Most of what was said was nothing new to me but the buzz in the room and the feeling of being involved in something special was priceless.

    Kevin Anderson September 7, 2015

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the post. Was really nice sharing the experience with you and catching up.

    The buzz was amazing. Really felt like I was part of a much bigger, exciting movement.


Chris Tate September 7, 2015


Fantastic post and I totally agree with every word.

Saved me writing it :)



    Kevin Anderson September 7, 2015

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. Really means a lot.

    Hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet you at a future event.

    All the best with your business.


kevin gallagher September 7, 2015

HI Kevin,

Great to hear your story and hear what others took from the conference. As I am sure everyone of us take something different away from the event.

Just sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you.

    Kevin Anderson September 7, 2015

    Hi Kevin,

    Right back at you. Really enjoyed your post. I confess that Marcus was a new name for me, can’t imagine what it must have been like to meet the man that’s influenced your career. Delighted for you and thanks for sharing your post, and for your kind words.

    All the best chief,


Chris Marr September 10, 2015

Hey Kev,

This is an absolutely fantastic review of your time at TCMA, i really enjoyed reading it – I’ve read it a few times now.

This quote is powerful “Today will go down as the day my business changed forever” and I don’t quite know how to respond to that, other than this is truly awesome!

TCMA 2015 had a huge impact on people, much more that I had imagined and it has very much taken me by surprise.

It’s now one week or so since the event I’m still trying to catch up with all the activity. It seems hat the buzz is building up, not fading away!

I’m so pleased that you discovered the community and made it to TCMA and I’m very much looking forward to working with you over the coming weeks, months and years!



    Kevin Anderson September 13, 2015

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the comment but since I wrote it I realised I was selling it short by saying ‘business’. It has changed my life. Let me explain.

    I have this new level of clarity about my business, and this weekend I felt like a different person. I got to spend so much quality time with each of my kids on their own, as well as the mad collective that they are. Mrs. Anderson has been working nights this weekend and sometimes I admit my mind wanders to business thoughts when I should be enjoying time with the kids. Not the day-to-day functional business thoughts – but the MASSIVE – ‘where the hell am I going with this’, bigger, deeper philosophical thoughts.

    Because of the new found clarity, I was able to relax, and really enjoy my weekend by just being a relaxed and very happy dad.


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