This is the first in a series of posts (will there be a second? We’ll see how it goes!) examining some common pieces of content marketing advice. As you can tell by the headline, this advice is a nugget of wisdom that we find somewhat foolhardy, misguided, or just plain old wrong.

So, for instance, I recently saw a post that suggested that content marketers “be compelling.”

Of course, the goal of content marketing – or any marketing – is to be compelling. In many ways, the greatest sin is to be boring. But telling people to “be compelling” is shallow. It’s like telling someone to “dunk the basketball” – you telling me to do it has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not I can or will.

If a content marketer doesn’t understand that the job is to be compelling, it’s time to find a new content marketer. And if they’re incapable of being compelling, it’s time to find a new content marketer. Either way, bestowing this advice from on high is not going to make a bit of difference.

I know that sometimes it seems like people and businesses are trying to not be compelling, but they’re not. Well, maybe in middle school when we all try to blend in to the woodwork, people are actively trying to avoid getting noticed. However, marketers are not trying to be boring. They’re trying to get noticed; they’re trying to be interesting. The problem too often is that they’re not compelling. For whatever reason, they are not capable of being compelling.

To my thinking, there are two primary reasons for the ocean of content that fails on the compelling scale—lack of courage and lack of ability.

Lack of courage is often an issue at the organization level. Groupthink takes over, people are afraid to offend or get something wrong, and the end result is something that is not wrong, but is also not memorable.

Lack of ability is just as big an issue. Plenty of content marketing teams are staffed by people who, quite simply, aren’t very good writers. That can manifest itself in atrocious grammar, but that’s grade school stuff. More often, it’s a lack of passion—the content is “sound” or “clean,” but utterly forgettable. That is, boring. In other words, not compelling, because the content creators are incapable of bringing passion to the subject matter. We’re not focused on the idea that is being espoused in the post because we’re so focused on not falling asleep.

However, telling the content creator to be compelling is not suitable advice. You can’t just snap your fingers and make someone interesting. You can’t wave a wand and take them from good to great.

So please stop advising content marketers to “be compelling” – either they already know that’s the mission or they don’t; either they can do it or they can’t. And if they don’t already know it or they can’t already do it, it’s time to find a new way. And if your organization doesn’t have the cajones to be compelling, maybe content marketing isn’t the right thing for you.

Most will agree that content marketing should provide answers to the audience questions. Well, is anyone asking “should I be compelling?

Exactly.