From the May 2001 issue of Startups

Before I write this, let me just clarify something: I'm not a snob. I know, that sort of sounds like one of those "the lady doth protest too much" things, but I swear, on my Complete Works of Shakespeare, that is a true statement.

Now that we've got that cleared up, gather 'round so I can tell you a story. A couple weeks ago, I got a call from a PR person pitching an entrepreneurial company, which shall remain nameless (in this article, that is-that's not a crack about what their success rate will be). Actually, it was a voice-mail message. "Hi, this is so-and-so from such-and-such company.we'd like to send you our press kit.blah, blah, blah." Fine. We called back and provided our address.

A day or two passed. Another message. "Hi, this is so-and-so from such-and-such company.just checking to make sure you received our press kit-making sure it didn't get lost.blah, blah, blah." Fine. We called back and told him we did, in fact, have the press kit and we'd give him a call if we were interested in writing about the company.

Another day or two passed. Another message. "Hi, this is so-and-so from-".uh, I deleted the message this time. Dude, we have the press kit. Back off, eh? And of course, my desire to write about the company was quickly waning.

This was followed by several more voice-mail messages. In each message, so-and-so made different claims-he had heard we lost his press kit; he wanted to check if we need additional info; he talked to someone else at Entrepreneur Media who indicated we might be interested in writing about the company. I was beginning to think I was the woman in Swingers-the one who gets a bazillion messages on her answering machine and eventually has to call the guy and say, "Mike, don't ever call me again."

And then, the voice-mail message of all voice-mail messages. "Hi, this is so-and-so from such-and-such company. Strangest thing happened-this morning when I checked my phone, your number appeared on caller ID, as though you had called me.I'm not sure if it was you or someone else at your company-maybe your computer called me? In any case, if you did call, and you need more information, please call me back."

OK. This is what I call stalker territory. Folks, if you're trying to attract the media's attention, this is precisely how not to do it. Persistence is one thing, and yes, I'm more likely to remember a company if I get a cool press kit in the mail and then a friendly follow-up phone call or two. But not if I get three, four, eight.I lost track with so-and-so. And certainly not if the caller thinks my computer is calling him.

Whether you have a PR person promoting your business or you're doing it yourself, treat self-promotion as you would dating. Call too much, and you become a turnoff. Show up with disheveled hair and dirty fingernails (read: send out a shabby-looking or poorly written press kit), and you might as well not even ring the doorbell. Start doing the drive-by, waiting for the object of your affection to get home from a night out with friends, and you've entered stalker territory. Your "date" will soon get a restraining order if you keep it up.

Back to me not being a snob. I'm probably happier than the average editor to find out about interesting entrepreneurs. If I didn't find out about them, we wouldn't be able to deliver this wonderful e-zine to you. But please, don't overdo it. I need to be able to date other people.