Public Relations
Aug 28, 2012

Four (Practically) Free PR Tools for Entrepreneurs

Basic PR doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a small investment of time and almost no investment of money, you can get started in promoting your “stories” to the world.

 Here are four almost-free tools worth a look:

1. Avoid “blank page” syndrome

Need to write a business plan and messaging for your organization, product or service, but just don’t know where to begin?

Go immediately to BizGym, pick any template, and start filling in the blanks.

Not sure what to put in those blanks? Don’t worry. The smart people behind BizGym don’t leave you in the lurch. If you’re unsure how to answer a question, they give you easy-to-understand examples and advice on how best to tell your story.

We particularly like the way BizGym’s templates are connected, so once you fill in, say, your contact info, it’ll appear not only on your business stationery template you’re working on, but also on the business card template you haven’t even looked at yet. Saves time, and keeps you on strategy.

paper with notes and pen

Cost? Free. But if you want to print out formatted docs or use their financial modeling tool, you’ll pay a modest monthly fee.

With your biz plan and messaging squared away thanks to BizGym, it should be a cinch to write a compelling news release.

 2. Spread the word

There’s an efficient way to promote your news without paying a fortune: Publish “to the web” with an Internet-distribution service.

There are several of these low-cost services around, but our current favorite is PRWeb. The base price of PRWeb is $89. But if you can swing it, we suggest going with the $199 service package – for which you get a good-looking news page, permanent hosting, search-engine optimization, the ability to target regional and vertical markets, and built-in social-media share buttons.

Traditional news-distribution services like PRNewswire and BusinessWire typically charge $1000 just to disseminate an average-length release, sans most of the multimedia bells and whistles. But these services deliver content not only to info sites like Yahoo News, but also directly into newsroom editorial systems. If you don’t have the dough, though, publishing to the web will help your news reach bloggers, investors, analysts, customers and, yes, even journalists searching your keywords or happening upon your announcement.

3. What you know might be what media need

Somewhere out there is a journalist searching for somebody with your expertise. How will you know?

You’ll subscribe to thrice-daily emails from Help A Reporter Out, or HARO for short. This free service brings to your inbox queries from dozens of journalists, writers and bloggers who are working on a story and need a source ASAP. That source just might be you.

Our advice on landing a hit through HARO? Study all the requests – even the ones that aren’t in your field – to learn what kinds of info journalists need. Soon you’ll recognize which HARO opportunities are right for you and you’ll respond accordingly. (No baiting and switching or you will get yourself banned from the service as a spammer.)

Be aware that you will not hear back from every journalist you pitch. Just be as concise, straightforward and compelling in your answer as you can. And keep trying.

If HARO works really well for you, you might consider paying for one of the optional subscription packages to give yourself a slight edge over competitors – the 100,000-odd other HARO subscribers.

4. Keeping track of yourself and others

Don’t try to tell us you don’t have any competitors. Anyone perceived as addressing the same issues as you, or providing similar services or products, can be considered a competitor.

You should be tracking competitors’ communications activities – as well as the activities of your clients’ or customers’ competitors – daily through Google News.

A no-brainer way to do that is to fill out the Google News email alert request so that the search engine will send links to competitors’ news – or any stories with the keywords you request – straight to your inbox. Once your own publicity program gets going, you can use Google News to find and track your coverage.

Bottom Line: sure, you can pay big bucks for a conventional clipping and media monitoring service. But for cash-strapped entrepreneurs like you, the free and thorough Google News is a reliable way to go.