Little boy in Dad's t-shirtI’ve been a communications professional for more than 30 years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that One Size Does Not Fit All. Yes there are things we’ve learned from experience to use in the next project, and the checklist for Client B’s event might be derived from one a few years back. In fact, there might be things we do for almost every project.

But they are also very different.

When I worked at a multi-national agency there was a competitor who almost always submitted boilerplate type responses to RFP requests. We knew what they were submitting based on the budget in the RFP. It made it pretty easy to beat them.

We didn’t decide our tactics until we listened. That made us harder to beat. We had to understand their needs and desires before recommending a solution.

We had to understand at least part of the competitive landscape to know what problem we were solving. That problem helped dictate the solutions.

Today, listening can be done online before even meeting the prospect. I almost always offer a different perspective…because I’m not there every day. I might still pitch an event or a publicity tour, but it’s always based on a strategy and goals. Today it also has a very large engagement component.

And, that’s where we can also be misunderstood.

How many times do you get a call saying…I need a brochure, press conference, event, etc. When you really start to listen and talk you realize what they really need is to change a behavior or belief among a specific audience. And there are a variety of ways to reach the end result. There are many tools in the tool box today that we didn’t have when I became a public relations professional more than 30 years ago.

Today there are so many tools out there to use it can be mind boggling. And that’s where our communities comes in – our online communities – of individual people around the world we’ve come to rely on. To help us make decisions. To aid in solving problems. To inform us of new tools and offer guidance.

And, that’s how we find ourselves making sweeping generalities.

With the ever growing use of the web, smart phones and social media tools, it’s very difficult to keep up and our reliance on our networks becomes even more important. Sharing tools and offering advice is critical. With that comes a responsibility. Sweeping statements about brand new products don’t help your credibility. Saying a product is DOA probably isn’t such a great idea. And these statements are even worse when it’s apparent you haven’t tried the product.

But it does demonstrate the need to always be watching and re-evaluating what’s important. Who is in your network and influencing you will likely change how you feel over time. And that’s okay.

With influence comes responsibility. To listen carefully to hear different points of view. To try new products and understand how different groups might use them. To see the world through the rose colored glasses of others.

That’s why quality is even more critical.

When “we” speak in social media circles, the ripple effect is enormous. It sometimes reaches well beyond our usual community. That’s why the tone and the word choice is so critical and the quality of the message so key.

From my standpoint, one size doesn’t fit all…

but the T-shirt better be made of the finest cotton…

at least in my book.