The Age of Customization

Kristin Patterson

cus·tom·ize: to make or alter to individual or personal specifications.

As a PR practitioner and mom to a middle-schooler, I often find myself reflecting on how much our day-to-day life has evolved. Gone are the days of holding up an old-school recorder to the radio speaker to “tape” your favorite song or hard-copy mailing the same pitch letter and release to a long-list of outlets. Today, our personal and professional lives are driven by the expectation of having a unique customer experience – something that is customized to our preferences (or those of our clients).

Whether or not the production processes are customized or not, the way in which we consume information and products today is, ranging from music to social networks to clothing. The iPod enables us to control how, when and where we listen to our music. Social networks and tools provide a way to filter content that’s most important to each of us – including by topic, author and location - helping us manage information overload. And major brands, including Converse and Nike, enable consumers to add personalization to their iconic sneakers. Businesses that can deliver on consumer interest to become involved in the production process (so to speak) can provide the ultimate experience – such is the case with Cambridge-based CustomMade.com which brings together artisan craftsman with consumers who want to be part of product creation.

Our industry is no different. Today’s most successful public relations practitioners are those who clearly understand the unique (customized!) needs of each audience whether it’s clients, colleagues or the media. Gone are the days of mass pitches sent by snail mail; today, it’s a necessity to take the time to craft a targeted pitch to each reporter (after checking out their Twitter handle, personal blogs and more). A new generation of practitioners expects us to match interests and personalities with the right assignments and clients. There are no longer “off-the-shelf” presentations (or at least there shouldn’t be). Whether it’s a presentation to a client or prospect, building a unique storyline both visually and in written form is what will demonstrate your understanding of the business.

That said, creating something unique for the sake of being different won’t work if it’s off strategy and irrelevant. Focus on your message and to whom it’s being delivered to make sure it’s beneficial and of value.

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