Before CMA

It was the summer of 2015 (no, not ’69, I will keep my singing for another day) when I met Chris Marr, Director of CMA (Content Marketing Academy) at a conference held at Itek in Kirkcaldy.

Chris was there to give a small talk about Content Marketing; it was interesting, he was engaging and I came away with a mind full of ideas.

Time went by, there were little bits of interaction with Chris and his team, and after a 30-day trial of the CMA membership, I signed up – I have never looked back.

Related content: The ‘Ron Jeremy’ of the marketing world

CMA Kick off 2018 venue the steeple church Dundee

This is an event, but not as you know it

Now, I had been to events, conferences and networking events before and, to be honest, they were nothing to write home about:

  • Dull venues
  • Less than interesting speakers
  • Mediocre content
  • Awful food and coffee

From my experiences of the CMA and its members since joining, I was really eager to attend a CMA event to see if it lived up to all the hype.

Skip forward to January 2018, CMA Kick Off 2018.

The event was held in Dundee; I was expecting something special and it did not disappoint.

The venue

The event was held in The Steeple Church in Dundee; a beautiful venue in the heart of the city. I have only ever been to events in office blocks or meeting rooms with stark overhead lighting and a serious lack of imagination.

I was slightly apprehensive about attending; that may be a personality thing, or maybe everyone feels like that – who knows? One thing I do know is that entering a room filled with friendly faces and Dave Grohl’s voice over the speakers instantly put me at ease.

The CMA venue was a far cry from the norm – it was inviting. It was spacious yet intimate and very comfortable -it was different.

An aspect of the venue that I found refreshing was the toilet twinning. I had never heard of this, so I had to investigate.

Toilet Twinning – it’s a thing!

By donating £60 to twin your toilet, you help those in desperate poverty to have access to a proper latrine, clean water and the information they need to be healthy.

Your smallest room becomes the proud owner of a certificate, complete with a colour photo of its twin and GPS coordinates so you can look up your twin on Google Maps.

Speakers and their content

Chris Marr

Founder & Director, Content Marketing Academy Ltd

Chris gave an overview of CMA since the last Kick Off in January 2017; he highlighted the achievements and awesome progress the other CMA members had made in the year, many of whom were in the room.  He touched on subjects such as challenges for 2018, effective content creation and Google analytics.

‘How do you know if you are getting better if you don’t measure it?’

This struck a chord; being from a finance background I was used to reporting KPI’s. At the moment we have a small reporting process regarding social media growth and engagement but I realised it could be so much better!


For any event to work there has to be an element of audience interaction to keep people interested and engaged.  Chris introduced the Catch-box, which is, in effect, a throw-able microphone – it was fun!  A question was asked and the microphone was thrown to that person. Next question asked, throw it to the next audience member

Don’t pass the mic, chuck it!

Catchbox - throw-able microphone

‘Content marketing is the only way to set business leaders free from the world of mediocre interruption marketing – Chris Marr’

Denise Cowle

Freelance editor and proof-reader

‘Who are you accountable to?’

Prior to becoming a freelance editor and proof-reader, Denise worked in a structured environment as a physiotherapist. In this role, Denise was accountable to her line manager so, when she made a major shift in her career, the accountability aspect of her work changed dramatically.


Within the CMA forum, splinter accountability groups have been formed, but not through a regimented grouping exercise or each person being pigeonholed based on their business.

Denise Cowle - freelance editor and proofreader

These groups are comprised of like-minded individuals who effectively chose each other.

‘Once you find each other’s humanity you begin to trust each other; only then can you be confident in being accountable to that person’

What is the purpose of an accountability group?

  • Brings support to those who are in business or role alone
  • Outsiders can see your business from a different perspective
  • Be accountable to a small group to keep each other on track
  • Offer help and advice
  • Someone to listen
  • Someone to take the journey with you

I found Denise’s talk thought provoking and helpful; I have touched upon an accountability group but not found the ‘yin for my yang’ ….yet.

Colin Gray

Podcaster and Managing Director

Colin and his team will ‘help you stand out, grow trust and nurture fans’ in the world of pod-casting.

But what is a podcast?

A podcast is an audio file you will find on the Internet that you can download and listen to. Generally they are recorded as a series and made available in instalments, much like a TV series.

Related link: The Podcast Host

colin gray podcasthost

Colin was speaking at CMA Kick off 2018 about the subject of productivity. Oddly, I wanted to hear about big microphones and super snazzy equipment!

However, I was not disappointed.


When you work in a structured organisation, each person’s role has its responsibilities, duties and delegations. When you work in a small company, or indeed work on your own, these duties all fall onto one person – you.

Colin’s talk was explained in a series of analogies using the ranking within an army and liking them to the characters within Game of Thrones.

He explained how, when it is all down to you, you have to adorn the different ‘hats’ of each rank to ‘fight the war against resistance’.

  • Annual planning
  • Theme setting
  • Monthly planning and goal setting
  • Weekly planning
  • Daily planning

These areas all need to be looked at individually, planned out in order and, yet, flow and complement each other. Without organisation and planning you are only going to go off on tangents and essentially be less productive.

Nobody wants to be a busy fool.

Julie Christie

 Photographer and teacher at Tea Break Togs

Julie is funny: she keeps you interested and smiling throughout her talk yet delivers a talk ram jam full!


Julie started off her talk telling us all about how she is the world’s worst procrastinator. Even preparing her slides for her talk at CMA Kick off (the evening before!) she let herself be pulled off to help her daughter research for a book she was writing, called ‘The Adventures of Rice Pudding’.

julie Christie photographer

 “Well that’s an important duty of a mother!” I hear you cry.

Not when a simple question turned into a three hour Google binge!  She found herself going to extreme lengths to find out the number of grains required in a UK and USA portion of rice pudding.

In all walks of life you will find elements of procrastination; it is the procrastinating visitors and potential customers to your website that need put back on track.

‘So, how do you get the right person to take action at the right time?’

Julie went on to explain product-based over-subscription.

You know what it is like – if you are getting something that is limited, or time sensitive or exclusive, you want it even more, right?

If you ‘build a buzz’ around the product or service you are selling, potential customers will be more interested.

  • Plan your campaign in advance
  • Establish your ideal client
  • Work out your overall objective
  • Determine the amount of clients you can serve

Throughout the campaign you need to serve the customer and add value with blogs and vlogs tailored to the campaign.

When the campaign comes to a close, your hope is to be in demand for the product or service you have been carefully marketing. You want your waiting list to be bursting at the seams with interest; you want to be oversubscribed.

Let all the interested parties know that your campaign has come to an end and that the product is now available to buy. Whether you are oversubscribed or only have a sliver of interest – keep your promise.

You want to remain a company of complete integrity – keep your promise on price and availability.

David Thomas

Motivational speaker

I was really looking forward to hearing David speak, and after reading his book, ‘Tell Me Why, Mummy’- I was intrigued to meet him.

David’s childhood was one of terrible abuse at the hands of his alcoholic mother and physically abusive stepfather. At 16, he attempted suicide twice, got in trouble with the police, was kicked out of school and received a criminal conviction.

He left home, turned his life around and joined the Fire Service. He was an operational fire-fighter for 11 years. With the nick name ‘Thrombosis’ (a slow-moving clot) he was told he would never amount to anything in life.

David Thomas motivational speaker

One night he was watching TV and saw a man memorising a pack of shuffled playing cards. After that, he bought a book on memory to help him pass his exams. Eight months later he entered his first World Memory Championships and went on to develop one of the most powerful memories in history.

The Motivation Speaker – Dave Thomas

  • World Memory Championships medallist
  • International Grandmaster of Memory
  • Guinness® memory record breaker for reciting Pi to 22,500 digits
  • World memory record holder for memorising and reciting 100 packs of individually shuffled packs of playing cards
  • US memory record breaker for memorising 160 digits in 5 minutes
  • US Memory Champion

‘It is not the cards you are dealt, is the way you play them’

David’s talk did exactly what was intended; it motivated people to believe in themselves. Don’t let your surroundings, your upbringing or incidents in your life stop you from achieving your goals.

Mushrooms are kept in the dark and fed shit; don’t allow yourself to be a mushroom.

Food and refreshments

I don’t know about you, but I live for food.

I could diarise my life by the food I eat, the restaurants I love and the meals I cook.

Conference food has never excited me- I have never found a sandwich satisfying or a finger roll fulfilling.

Stop the press: the catering was fantastic!

Bethany from Gather provided a tasty little ensemble for lunch, which included couscous, beetroot, broccoli, peppers and goat’s cheese. Along with the sweet potato and cashew nut soup, it was a mouth-watering delight!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try the brownies due to the fact that Gavin Bell ate the tray full – I heard that they were delicious though!

CMA kick off 2018  food
Gather carnoustie

The coffee was love in a cup! I adore good coffee and this was GOOD coffee.

Final thoughts

I came away from CMA Kick Off 2018 energised, full of ideas and ready to ‘get shit done’.

Normally, the beginning of the year is a slow starter; it takes a few days for your engine to warm up and another few days to remember to write 2018 and not 2017.

2018 has got off to a completely different start. Already I have joined an accountability group, I have found the ‘yin for my yang’, I have created content and planned more, and I am quarter of the way through ‘Known’ – by Mark Schaefer – while some people are not even back to work!

Do you want to be part of the awesome CMA squad? 

Come on in to the place where the coolest people on the planet hang out………………..

The CMA Squad

CMA Lick off 2018 - group shot
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