Trust Agent: Anthony Bourdain

A year ago, Boelter + Lincoln brought Chris Brogan, social media guru and the co-author of Trust Agents, to Milwaukee for a great event. Chris left us with some excellent thoughts, great memories and the hunger to live more honestly — to become Trust Agents. Now, if you don’t understand what a trust agent is, I can give you the short hand:

A trust agent is one who has built a rapport with an audience. One who, through dialogue and actions, has demonstrated a sense of credibility and like-mindedness with their market. For instance, if you were looking for trust-worthy advice about your car, you’d probably look to NPR’s Click and Clack or other car guys whom you trust. If you wanted to throw the ultimate Easter party, you may pick up a Martha Stewart’s Living.

So today, I’m on the treadmill at Snap Fitness doing my daily grind when I suddenly realized an agent of my trust: Anthony Bourdain. His Travel Channel show, “No Reservations,” plays on my treadmill each day at noon and subconsciously I have become a follower, nay, a loyal follower and evangelist.

I believe one of the most important qualities of any trust agent is enthusiasm, and Mr. Bourdain certainly fits the bill. His lust for food, travel and life in general is contagious. Another important quality — quite possibly the MOST important — is the lack of self-promotion. Trust agents are helpful. They talk about others, promote others and celebrate qualities we all respect. This creates a halo-effect that reflects shiny, happy light back on the aforementioned agent.

It’s logical: If he likes crab cakes and I like crab cakes, then I like him…right?

In the virtual dinner party of social media this is very true. And the life, taste and global style of Anthony Bourdain is quite appealing. He could tell me to travel to a swamp in the Philippines to dine on water buffalo feet, and I’d think, “Damn, I could go for a little swampy buffalo feet right now.”

Call it a man-crush, call it fandom, but it’s the foundation of trust that you’ll ultimately arrive at. And sure, Bourdain promotes himself a bit (I mean, he is on TV after all). But outside of trying to look cool while sliding on ice or sand surfing down a dune, he constantly celebrates others. His show is built on the pure enjoyment of other people’s work — a great way to build some solid equity to trade upon later.

So, let’s be helpful. Let’s celebrate others. And let’s relax on the hard sell. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but once you’re in the “Double Dutch” world of real audience interaction and dialogue, it will separate your brand from the rest of the pack.