In San Francisco, the backlash against privileged, self-absorbed Titans of Tech is rising faster than city rents – themselves cresting to new heights on the buying power of civic-blinded techies. With a round-the-clock public platform but no internal filter, these kids keep saying the darnedest things. The latest Marie Antoinette moment comes from Greg Gopman of AngelHack, a start up for start ups, who’s apparently tired of stepping over – or is it trampling? – homeless people to get to work.
The rant on his Facebook page was astonishing. “Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue,” he wrote. In other cities, he wistfully noted, the less fortunate “keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests… There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us.”
Gopman deleted the post and apologized the next day. AngelHack disavowed him a day later, saying he had officially left the firm in October – they just hadn’t announced it yet – and channelling a more beneficent attitude. No surprise that the apologia drew far less press than the gaffe that prompted it.
THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Greg Gopman, for embarrassing himself, his company and his entire industry in a city that is starting to profoundly resent it.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: In PR, no one is an island. The saying is especially inviolate for anyone whose celebrity derives from business prominence. Unleashed on social media’s open seas, your late-night brainstorm could produce a storm of quite another type. Interactions with the have-not class are inevitable for most city dwellers, but not everyone turns that into a 300-word screed. Develop a fiilter that asks: Does this need to be said, by me, right now? If in doubt, ask someone else.