A lot of people complain about Valleywag being a muckraking, patently unfair, inaccurate, just plain mean source of behind-the-scenes technology news. [Which means people are complaining about a mainstream source of entertainment in the industry, particularly here in northern California.] The site is decried as a parasite that would not exist without the success of visionary entrepreneurs, their investors and the people behind the scenes.
That said, Valleywag’s team would have very little to shovel if it weren’t surrounded by excrement. It’s Valleywag’s chosen role to sift through the waste and report the dark side of the technology culture. [Calm down, every industry has one.] And this actually serves a purpose. We are inundated with hyperbole at impossibly higher levels of absurdity every day. If we’re not going to tell the truth, somebody should be trying to uncover it.
It’s said that Valleywag draws some outlandish conclusions at times and deliberately puts things in a bad, if not salacious, light. But as long as there has been a media, there have been players who’ve taken this role and run with it. So any company that decides to build awareness via the media must accept that there are all kinds of media and devise a way to deal with them. Not play them, deal with them.
Of course, the best way to manage one’s image is to operate transparently, admitting that errors in judgment and mistakes are part of the drill. It’s become clear that the biggest obstacle to transparency is human nature. You can have the most sophisticated branding, public relations and product marketing armies at your beck and call, but unless the honchos check ugly tendencies such as narcissism, arrogance, nepotism and elitism at the front door each morning, you are sunk. Because when the foibles hit, and they will, you’re going to need an uncluttered perspective to explain them and convince stakeholders — including all those people who bought your stock — that you’re running a business, not a 24/7 funhouse. Otherwise, all that bravado is only going to convince one person: the one looking back at you from the mirror.
Unfortunately for companies in any industry with a lot of resources to throw around, financial success does weird things. When it’s stratospheric success, the beast becomes really unreasonable.
So, read one of today’s posts from Valleywag. It’s a case study in comprehending just how wacky you can become when you have nothing to lose but a job you don’t need anymore and a reputation that you think counts only with your kind, dear.