Is It Time to Bring a Preacher to Your Practice?

Are you one of the cobbler’s children?

The phrase “the cobbler’s children” refers to the proverbial shoemaker who is so busy making shoes for his customers that he can’t make, or even repair, shoes for his children. Thus, the expert shoemaker’s children don’t have shoes. 

It’s one of the more common laments I hear in my work with businesses all over the world. The technology design company runs a hard-to-use-website. The carpenter lives in a house that’s falling apart. The fitness company’s executives are all out of shape.  And, yes, the content creators don’t have time to develop their own content

It’s not like we’re unaware of the irony. But there’s this weird acquiescence that takes place – we sometimes just give up our ability to remedy it. Often, the lament “we are the cobbler’s kids” comes with a sigh and an implied . . . “and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Why is that?

Is it because of some internal weakness? We know how to deal with this weakness – and can help others – but don’t help ourselves. Think of introverts who teach public speaking. They help others get over nervousness and become great performers. But they never take the time or devote the effort to cure it in themselves. It’s the classic manifestation of the (slightly paraphrased) George Bernard Shaw line, “Those who can’t do, teach.”

I find it’s much more commonly a defensive mechanism. We come to a shared conclusion that we’re “too busy” or “too focused” to expend effort on something we’re supposedly experts in. 

Sometimes business leaders are in denial or unaware that no shoes are being made.

Not long ago, I sat in the audience of one of the biggest marketing conferences in the United States. On the main stage, the CMO of a large, famous marketing software and services company talked up how they were killing it by serving strategic marketing services to their customers. Every bullet point on his slides spoke to their prowess as a marketing and content powerhouse

This company was a client of mine. I had literally just finished an engagement where every person in the content and marketing department lamented about their awful results, process, and challenges. The cobbler’s children lacked shoes, and the cobbler didn’t even realize they needed any. 

Solving the “cobbler’s children” challenge is confounding.

But once you’ve acknowledged you have this challenge, bringing in other cobblers can help. This step can be hard. It feels weird to admit that we need help at something we’re supposed to excel at.

So the marketing guru hires a marketing agency to help market themselves. The tech company brings in someone to fix its IT infrastructure. The editor brings in a writing coach to help with becoming a published author.

I call this bringing a preacher to the practice. When we’re the cobbler’s children, it’s because we’re not practicing what we preach. But admitting we need to bring a preacher to the practice not only helps us give our kids shoes, it also helps us become better shoemakers.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
Robert Rose on LinkedinRobert Rose on Twitter


Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.