Since I began this column a year ago, I’ve divided my reader email into three categories:
The first are folks who tell me I have precious little to say, especially considering that I write about the importance of good Web content. Usually, I write a brief apology, promising to do better next time (guilt is a powerful motivator).
The second group agrees with me that most Web content stinks and offers ways to make it smell a little sweeter. Naturally, I take a shine to those folks immediately and commend them for their brilliance.
Group three are the super sellers — dot-com diehards who will stop at nothing to pitch a product. I’m generally not too interested in them. Tracy Hughes was the exception.
Tracy, who works at Tendo Communications, falls somewhere between pitch-woman and adherent to the basic premise of this column (you go through most corporate Web sites holding your nose). Hughes insists Tendo is out to change Web content, one client at a time.
I’m the one who usually tells organizations to write their own copy and to hire good writers who can do the job in-house. They’re the ones who know the organization. I’ve always held that if you use an agency or so-called “content provider” for the job, you risk the stench of canned, impersonal content. Nevertheless, after receiving several impassioned emails, I decided to see what Tracy’s organization could do.
I’m glad I made the connection. The business model is a familiar one: providing customized Web and print content. Material is often written on a serialized basis. Tendo appears more adept than most marketing communications organizations. Its founders have resumes listing Ziff Davis, IDG, McGraw-Hill, and Time Warner. They seem to have a real passion for churning out effective content.
“This is content that has a mission and directs itself to the target groups,” says Tracy, citing the fact that 65 percent of all magazines sitting on newsstands are shredded because they don’t connect with an audience (consider the soon-to-be-defunct “Mademoiselle”). “You lose when the content isn’t compelling. Readers have too many media choices [for companies] to risk that kind of loss.”
Tendo has also had some big client wins. For Cisco Systems, it created the Internet Quotient (iQ) section of the company’s site, which also has a print counterpart. The iQ site provides nontechnical users greater insights into the Internet’s capabilities for solving business challenges. To Tendo’s credit, the content is intelligently written and organized, complete with case studies and advice from industry experts.
The company has also been able to achieve a semblance of return on investment (ROI) for its clients. Tracy points to return visits, longer visits, and evidence of viral marketing activities as some of the metrics evaluated by Cisco.
Although staffed with what she describes as “an army” of editors, Tendo employs freelancers for many content projects. It’s clear writers are assigned for tailor-made writing, rather than churning out pablum that may or may not suit a client’s needs. “Since we’ve all been in publishing, we know who to hire. We’ll never divert to a ‘C’ or ‘D’ team for a client,” Tracy asserts.
Particularly impressive are the observations of Tendo writer Eric Adams, who says the best approach to content development is to view readers as “smart, discerning, well-read, and ready to respond to material that satisfies their need for information.”
Says Tracy, “We’ve all taken the approach that we’re putting out a sophisticated publication every day.”
Sophisticated. Smart. Discerning. Refreshing words from an organization worth checking out. If you’re not interested in Tendo, I recommend finding a content vendor with similar qualifications:
- A resume that includes solid experience in print or electronic media
- An ability to provide real ROI figures (never accept the excuse that you are simply building brand awareness)
- An assurance that A-list writers will be assigned to your project
- High regard for the intelligence of your readership (if you ever hear your content providers tell you they’re writing for a seventh-grade level, run!)
Let me know what you think. I love email, no matter which category you fall into!