Relativity & Communications

I make the case that understanding relativity is key to communications and business success in a recent article. It is only by understanding what we do relative to a well-defined universe of agencies, clients, ideas, content, and media that we can achieve our goals. This requires work.    


Theory of Relativity in Business

Einstein, time, and gravity are probably top of mind when we think about the idea of relativity, but there are some useful parallels to draw upon to frame the value of the concept for communicators.

“In our universe, social, professional, and economic rules govern interactions between each part of the system. For example, the relationship between PR professionals and journalists reflects unwritten, but clear, rules. These may not be as fundamental as gravity, but they are important nonetheless.”

When it comes to relativity, its importance stems from the fact that we are communicating within a system of competing ideas and companies. If we or our clients put out a release announcing the launch of the wheel, and there are already wheels out there, unless there is something different about what we are doing compared to others – journalists will not pay attention. 

This may feel obvious, but all too often business leaders are surprised when announcements land with a clang because relative to the broad spectrum of news and information they don’t stand out.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being so invested in a product, idea or your own company that you lose perspective. It is critical to understand how journalists (or other audiences) with a much broader line of sight into competing products or information (and a less Panglossian perspective) will perceive what you are doing.   

Research and competitive analysis are key to understanding the relative differentiation of a product, company, or agency, and to carving out a unique positioning that will resonate in the market. It’s one of the reasons for hiring an agency and for the work agencies do to understand how an announcement will likely stack up. Seeing communications and our businesses as part of a system provides a framework for understanding whether or not we are likely to achieve our goals.    

“Looking at the world through the lens of relativity provides an efficient path to decision making within complex systems. Think buying a car, pitching a journalist, or hiring an agency.”

There’s an additional benefit. What we do does not have to be perfect to be successful. “We just need to be better, relatively, than others.”    


Simon Erskine Locke is founder & CEO of communications agency and professional search and services platform, CommunicationsMatch™, and a regular contributor to CommunicationsMatch’s technology helps clients search, shortlist and hire agencies and professionals by industry and communications expertise, location, size, diversity and designations. CommunicationsMatch powers PRSA’s Find a Firm search tools, Capitol Communicator’s Sourcebook, and developed the industry’s first integrated agency search and RFP tools, Agency Select™, with RFP Associates. 



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