Over the last few years we've all been told that we need to improve communications with our customers. Many organizations have taken the advice to heart. They have assessed customer communication preferences and initiated a dialog with their audience. They've added targeted statement messaging, intelligent inserts, VDP, and coordinated email campaigns. But some companies have gone overboard.

It's easy to do! Especially in electronic channels where the cost per message is miniscule compared to those that are delivered using paper, ink, and postage. Add in the fact that few corporations really have a centralized customer communication strategy and it's possible you could be generating a tsunami of content without being fully aware of the total volume.

With all the communication channels available to us today it can seem as though we're old-fashioned if we don't exploit every single one of them. Some companies have felt compelled to collect all of their customer-facing messages and blast them out through every possible outlet. It is as if we've ignored the lessons we learned in the physical document world about selective messaging and regressed to an electronic version of spray and pray.

Even though I'm now in the content-generation business for some of our clients, I still don't like to see companies who drown their audience with too many articles, posts, and press releases. By not being selective, they dilute the effectiveness of their messages. Or worse, they find themselves being un-linked, un-followed, and un-friended!

I follow a few entities on Twitter who over-communicate. I suspect that there are automated processes in place that may be responsible for some of this content, which makes the messages all the more impersonal. But regardless of how they are generated, presenting 10 or 20 posts a day for me to scan guarantees that I'll miss some important messages that were buried among all the rest. I can find the time to click on one or two interesting-looking posts. But twenty of them? Forget it!

Perhaps we're not really understanding the social aspect of social media and we are concentrating too much on the media part. I see quite a few companies whose messages fall almost entirely into two categories; they are entirely self-serving (marketing), or they are re-posts of industry news items from some other source. I don't have the bandwidth to read all that stuff. Very little of it is especially compelling and I know I can get it in a half-dozen other places if I need it.

I realize that I probably cast a wider net than the average document industry professional. It's part of my job to keep up on developments and trends in all sorts of areas that may be important to my clients. So I don't try to filter out a lot of things, and I take that into account. I can only imagine how someone who is more specialized deals with some of these content-gushers. It's got to be overwhelming.

What I'd like to see is a little more creativity along with some indication that the writer identifies with the challenges faced by their intended audience. Give me an intriguing headline or provocative opinion; show me that you can see the world from the perspective of your customers. Talk to me like you're a person instead of a faceless corporate PR machine.

Publishers who can do those things will have my attention and admiration. I will be awaiting their next communications - in any channel they choose - with great anticipation. And I promise not to un-anything to them as long as they maintain a level of relevance and distinction.

Mike Porter is an expert in Print and Mail operations and President of Print/Mail Consultants, a consulting firm that helps companies publish quality informational content, be more productive, and adapt to changing trends. He welcomes your comments. For more information visit http://www.printmailconsultants.com/ or email Mike directly at mporter@printmailconsultants.com.