PR 101: People Don’t Want To Do Business With Jerks
Unless you don’t follow tech news, you’ve likely already heard about startup founder Peter Shih’s rant on hating San Francisco. For those not here, the short version is Peter wrote a story sharing things he hates about the city he currently resides in (in a childish / silly way) which naturally sparked the ire of the city.
Predictably, as our entire city is an active, interested place people responded both online (with the hashtag #PeterShihFacts):
…as well as in the physical world with posters like these showing up all over the city:
Nearly every local publication also responded, from SFist (linked above) to The Bold Italic and SF Gate. So much so, I was out this weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday and people were talking about it everywhere.
Whether the reaction is overblown or not isn’t what I want to talk about today. From a cultural standpoint it’s interesting. But what’s more interesting is the fact that Peter updated his original post (archived here) which is now deleted by adding the following disclaimer:
He asked people to stop bringing his company into this. But that’s of course impossible. Just as we have shared example after example of in the past, you are the company you work for. There is no delineation and the world simply does not like doing business with (perceived or real) jerks, particular in an industry like technology. Even beyond tech, we’ve seen this true with boycotts surrounding large brands like Abercrombie and Chick-fil-A due to comments from CEOs.
You are what you share and your digital reputation follows you everywhere. Business is personal and personal is business and it is sad not all founders realize this. Having opinions and taking sides is a great thing. You shouldn’t be afraid to do that, ever. But understand how to do this in a way with tact and class, or the above will more and more be an outcome, particularly if you attack something senselessly that others love.
It was great to see Peter write an apology. However, I do think the damage is beyond that at this point and he should consider going a step further than writing something online and actually do something to help the city. Especially if he wants to stay here long term and not hurt the reputation of Y Combinator further (by association, Peter in a way hurts them too). Let’s hope this turns around for everyone and the childish behavior by a few people who aren’t thinking stops. They simply do not represent the culture we have in Silicon Valley.