All of us know that there is always some delta between perception and reality. No where is this more pronounced than in politics. I recommend watching shows like Designated Survivor, Madam Secretary, Scandal and House of Cards for appreciating how optics and perception shape so much of policy-making. If there is one category where shows closely resemble the reality, it has got to be politics.

Anyhow, this perception reality gap is very applicable in the tech world too. I was intuitively aware of that but I just didn’t realize how severe and pervasive it can be until fairly recently. The delta between what credible outsiders say & what insiders tell me about certain high profile startup exits, funding events & origin stories is pretty striking. I’m talking about a delta beyond a reasonable degree. Even the best journalists endlessly repeat a story that is a mix of some reality and mostly talking points handed to them. The outsiders amplify those stories while the insiders cringe and remain silent. It has happened enough times for me to now be more skeptical about what I read & hear. Narratives are powerful. We latch onto them to make sense of everything.

I recently wrote :

Generally speaking, we come up with these narratives by observing something, coming up with a descriptive framework to make sense of it and conceiving an abstracted version of that to conjure up an axiom or principle. We boil down a complex reality to a function of observable variables. Such descriptive theories, like superstitions, are heuristics to deal with uncertainty.

Here’s Aaron Zamost, a career comms professional in Silicon Valley, has to say about this :

Over the years, I developed the idea by filling in the times on the clock. It has helped to be in tech; startups in particular, always begin with a “founding story,” and follow a typical path through Silicon Valley Time (SVT). It’s not perfect, of course. Companies can skip an hour — or in some cases several. Others get stuck along the way, and with a stalled narrative (and broken clock) cease to be relevant.

More from him :

The Law of Narrative Gravity posits that the public and press are drawn to narratives, and the more widely accepted (or massive) a narrative, the more it attracts and shapes the perception of facts.

No, I am not against free press. That’s reductive. But my takeaway is that comms teams and the press work in harmony to craft narratives that I should always take with a grain of salt.