Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith

June 30, 2010 by
Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith

“Argh!” My wife slammed the phone down in disgust. I knew that I had to choose my next words very carefully.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Thy Kingdom Come!” she said. “Um, what?” was my benign yet puzzled reply.

“Thy Kingdom Come ministries! They won’t stop calling me! I’ve asked them to take me off their mailing and call lists five times now and they won’t do it. This is so annoying!”

The ministry she’s referring to is a local organization that brings church and ministry speakers in from all over the world. They’re also notorious for nabbing up people’s e-mail addresses and phone numbers and ruthlessly pummeling those same people with marketing spam. This ministry holds your information hostage (even after you’ve opted out of their materials) and sends a non-stop torrent of information to every inbox they can get their hands on, hoping it converts to a “sale.”

In short, the people in this ministry are not trust agents.

What’s a trust agent? According to authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, they are people who have, “Established themselves as being non-sales oriented, non-high-pressure marketers. Instead, they are digital natives using the web to be genuine and to humanize their business. They’re interested in people (prospective customers, employees, colleagues, and more), and they have realized that these tools that enable more unique, robust communication also allow more business opportunities for everyone.”

Brogan and Smith authored a book by the name of Trust Agents to highlight what the new marketer will need to be like in the web 2.0 era (and beyond) if they hope to survive. Not only that, they also claim that organizations “can no longer hide behind the veneer of a shiny branding campaign, because customers are one Google search away from the truth.”

The truth. What is the truth? About you? About your church or ministry?

The truth is that…

  • A trust agent doesn’t boorishly push their own materials.
  • A trust agent is One of Us, a respected member of the community they wish to reach.
  • A trust agent builds relationships on the web with the hopes of giving more than they receive.
  • A trust agent “humanizes the web.”

I think churches and ministries have a lot to learn from trust agents. Sure, churches aren’t marketing a product, so to speak, but we’re communicating a message. That constitutes the need to strategize in how to best communicate the message. This, by and large, is marketing.

Which is why we need to learn how to be trust agents.

How many of us in ministry can say that we’re “trust agents” in our communities? Not self-labeled trust agents (that doesn’t count), but trustworthy people as deemed by our communities? Further, how many of us in local churches and parishes can navigate the web, with all of its nooks and crannies, and become a credible spokesperson? A big task, for sure, but there are people already doing it:

  • Amanda Sims is a trust agent.
  • Leonard Sweet is a trust agent.
  • Cynthia Ware is a trust agent.
  • Tony Steward is a trust agent.

What will people find if they Google your church? Will they find a glossy, slick, well-designed website without someone “behind the wheel”? Or will they find a church that is full of a network of trust agents? People who reach out into the web community, “humanizing” the church for those who are far off.

Are your churches too busy dumping streams of information onto social networks like Twitter and Facebook to notice the prayer requests that trickle onto your church’s fan page? A trust agent would notice and take action. Are you too busy to respond to the comments on your blog? Or worse yet, do you only respond to the comments from the “big names”? A trust agent would find time to respond to as many people as humanly possible. That’s what a trust agent does.

Brogan and Smith state that businesses can no longer hide from the truth, so what makes us think that churches can? Trust Agents is a call to be open, to be human, to be honest and to deal in all things with integrity. In short, treat people like we would want to be treated. Funny, but I think I’ve heard that one before. Haven’t you?

Post By:

Justin Wise

Justin Wise lives in West Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife and son. He likes coffee, reading, running and blogging.
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4 Responses to “Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith”

  • Christopher Wiseman
    June 30, 2010

    Justin, I love this post! It’s funny how willing churches are to get on the book bandwagon and endorse kitsch gimmickry but when it really comes to fundamental marketing/pr/branding strategy and values seem to turn a blind eye.

    I think another way of putting it is that, trust agents are the market appointed “golden rulers” of your church, ministry, organization, (fill in the blank). This concept is discussed quite a bit when talking about tribal leadership and that the idea of a marketing/pr/branding depts., really do ring hollow if the employees themselves have not truly bought into the organization’s values and vision. In a ministry setting I think that’s why there are so many stories about unChristian Christians. The self-proclaimed (un)Christians that nobody wants to do business with because they’re cutthroat or the unChristian tippers leaving a bible tract and awful tip or the unChristian who tells someone who’s just diagnosed with cancer not to worry and quotes Romans 8:28.

    These are not trust agents and will kill your brand quicker than any product flop, which I think is really well demonstrated in church. Who else starts with a perfect product that sells itself? The problem always comes from the messengers and the marketers. Brogan and Smith are right on, any church or organization that doesn’t empower all its members to organically become trust agents on their own, seals its own fate to mediocrity.

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  • Jason Yarborough
    June 30, 2010

    Incredible post! Love the call out to humanize to your web presence. Do you think within a church there should be one person dedicated to humanizing what they are doing? For all channels of the ministry?

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    • Justin Wise
      July 2, 2010

      Thanks for the kind words.

      In my opinion, I think it should be both/and! You can certainly have a person(s) dedicated to being “the” Trust Agent for a church, but your entire team should have an ability to interact within the web sphere in a trust-agent-way.

      Web communication is just like any other form of communication, in my opinion. I think we have a responsibility to understand human communication and be able to convey information clearly; namely the Gospel.

      Great question, though.

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  • Chris Syme
    July 20, 2010

    Best book I read all summer. I love Brogan. But just so people know, he does push his own stuff–a lot. But I follow him because his “stuff” is helpful to me (and to others).

    Being a trust agent isn’t about NOT pushing your own stuff. I think the difference Brogan is talking about with concepts like Agent Zero and the Archimedes Principle is what is different about Trust Agents is it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you and how you leverage the internet to accomplish that. Great book, good post. Thanks.

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