10 low-cost PR strategies for startups and small businesses

Small business owners and experts in public and media relations share tips for how to generate good press for your business without having to spend a lot of money.

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“For a minimal spend, we published it on Pinterest and watched it take off,” she says. “The organic reach of this one infographic blew our paid ads out of the water – over 31,000 re-pins and ranking on the first page of the Pinterest Finance category. It was consumable and valuable information for the consumer, and a low-cost win for us.”

Instagram is another good way to attract attention to your business. Post visually appealing photos of your products using popular, relevant Instagram hashtags. You can also create a unique, company-specific hashtag to track who’s looking at and sharing your images.

[ Related: 10 ways multichannel companies can build trust with customers ]

7. Answer questions on Quora. “Quora is a great place to share content in the form of answers to questions,” says Quincy Smith, marketing manager, Visiple, a video conferencing platform.  “If you post and answer enough, you will get more credibility and people will not only ask you to answer questions but will also visit your site.” Just “make sure your business name and Twitter handle are in your account bio (mine is ‘Marketing Manager for @Visiple,’ for example).” And include a link to your business in your posts, if or when appropriate.

8. Pitch smaller, niche publications and blogs that are targeted at your audience/industry. “Many companies overlook smaller, more niche websites and digital magazines in lieu of major publications like Forbes and Inc.,” says Lauren Fairbanks, CEO, S&G, a digital content and PR firm. “However, many industry publications get pitched far less often and are much more open to op-eds, guest articles and using you as a source for future articles.”

Similarly, reach out to industry blogs, or blogs that target your target audience.

[ Related: 12 tips for creating a must-read business blog ]

“Whether it's a one-time guest post, or a regular column, reach out to the blog's editor and offer [him or her] story ideas that showcase your business acumen, industry expertise and writing chops,” says Termeh Mazhari, a PR/Marketing and SEO consultant. “Even if the guest post is not directly related to your company, you're establishing yourself as a thought leader and that's just as important. Plus, your byline will feature info about your brand with links to your company site so press can always find you and contact you.”

“You can [also] use relatively low-cost distribution services like eReleases to send out press releases,” says Kristian Rivera, digital marketing specialist, Fit Small Business. Or “you can build out a media/press contact sheet and send out your press release via email, using LinkedIn or company websites to get contact information for the people you [want] to reach.”

9. Publish articles on LinkedIn Pulse, Medium and other free content sites. “There are hundreds of online industry news and blog sites that accept contributions for no charge,” says Domenick Cilea, president, Springboard, a full-service PR, marketing, social media and design agency. “These are free opportunities to legitimize your expertise.” And you can include “links to your company website [to] draw traffic to your brand without paying for any additional advertising.” Just be sure to share links to your articles on your social media channels and on your website to maximize exposure.

10. Reward customers for posting something nice about you. “Offer customers discounts or giveaways to post a picture of themselves at your store with their new purchase,” or using your product at home or someplace fun, says John B. Dinsmore, assistant professor, Marketing, Raj Soin College of Business, Wright State University. Ask that they “tag the store’s Facebook, [Pinterest or Instagram] account or declare the store as their location in the post. Immediately, the person’s friends will all see a persuasive endorsement for your store from someone they trust.”

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