The 7 Essential Elements Of Compelling Content

Posted on May 21, 2012

What Is Compelling Content?
The Question Most Marketers Can’t Answer.

Each year, I attend 40 to 50 presentations on various marketing and corporate communications topics. And in about two-thirds of them I hear speakers proclaiming the need for “compelling content” in blogs and on websites, social sites, and elsewhere.

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Usually, the audience members nod respectfully at this revelation, as if they’ve just received divine guidance. And usually, without further elaboration, the speaker simply moves on.

Depending on my mood, I’ll sometimes ask: “That’s all well and good, but exactly what do you mean by compelling content?”

Content That’s Really Good And Stuff

The answers can be fascinating. “Content that’s compelling,” a speaker once told me with lordly authority. “Content that’s really good,” said another, itching to get to the next bullet point. One answer I admired was: “It’s like the Supreme Court justice’s position on pornography—you can’t define it but you know it when you see it.” That’s clever but still evasive.

And one of the best answers I ever heard was: “That’s a tough one. There are lots of issues to consider. That could probably be an entire presentation in itself.” This skirts the issue, too, but it’s probably the most forthright response of the bunch.

Why can’t so many marketers provide a useful, substantive answer to this question? In many cases, I think, their main focus is management or strategy, not content creation.

While they acknowledge the importance of—and need for—excellent content, some also tend to see content from a distance and stereotype it as a commodity that’s simply poured onto a web page like milk is poured onto breakfast cereal. In other words, they’re probably not close enough to the content creation process to offer a helpful opinion.

How To Create Compelling Content

Basically, it’s content that gets—and keeps—the reader or viewer interested and involved. Content can do this in an infinite number of ways, but here are some words or phrases that might help. To be compelling, for example, content needs to be:

  1. Clear and specific (‘nuff said)

  2. Human (personable, offering a distinctive voice),

  3. Relevant (directed to the reader or viewer’s needs or interests)

  4. Accessible (written, spoken, or rendered in direct, everyday, relatable words and/or images)

  5. Intriguing (able to arouse curiosity and stimulate thought)

  6. Provocative (capable of evoking emotion, either serious or humorous)

  7. Trustworthy (credible, believable)

That’s a beginning at least. As that forthright speaker told me: “There are lots of issues to consider.” Everyone who thinks about this subject will, I’m sure, have thoughts to add.

But maybe the more important question is: How do you get to compelling? The fastest way for sure is to hire an expert who is right for you. As a writer, I can only speak to that end of things. And I once did, putting together a brief article on what to look for when choosing a writer.

If you find this subject interesting (or maybe even compelling), check out my post 6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Corporate or Marketing Writer and 22 Ways to Create Compelling Content [Infographic] And Content Marketing Case Study.


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About The Author (Guest Post)

David Meuel is an accomplished and award-winning poet. (I am a big fan of his published works.) By day, David also uses his power for good to write corporate and marketing narratives and internal communication pieces that really do stand out for their energy, originality, and sparkling language. Over the past 25 years, he has worked for more than 90 different companies, including Visa, Cisco, Apple,  and eBay. In fact, he recently wrote an application that was instrumental in eBay being named one of the Best Places to Work in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and Switzerland for 2012. You can reach David at 650-804-2543 or

or visiting him at to learn more.