6 Proven PR Tactics for Small Businesses on a Shoestring


Message to small businesses owners:  “You don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Organizations operating on a shoestring marketing budget and skeleton staffs can come across as larger than life by mastering a few simple and cost-effective “guerrilla PR” tactics.  Because many smaller organizations don’t have dedicated in-house PR resources, their CEOs and marketing leads have to be more creative — and strategic — than larger resource-rich organizations that enjoy the benefits of well-known brands and deep pockets.

Here are six proven ways a small businesses can make the most of a lean and mean PR program:

  • Partner with well-known brands.  And make it super-easy for them to partner with you. Do all the leg work, the running around.  Use free tools like Google Alerts to see what’s trending in your industry and to learn who’s doing what. You’ll discover complimentary brands that are your future business partners.  Chances are good your outreach efforts will be well received if you do your homework and make sure you’re offering real value.
  • Don’t take it personally when the crème de la crème of the influencer community never return your phone calls. It will take some brand building, and time, and a compelling success story before national mainstream media and top-tier celebrity influencers will pay attention to you. In the meantime, build relationships with the trade and local media, and with emerging influencers. Trade journalists take pride in discovering new and interesting companies and tier two celebrities want to get attached to companies that show potential. If you’re in the food business, forget about Bobby Flay showcasing your products and instead engage with a few of the many well-respected but still emerging chefs.  Over time, Mr. Flay may take notice.
  • Focus on media exclusives. As a small business, you won’t have breaking news with any regularity nor the resources to develop deep relationships with that many journalists. Instead, cultivate a handful of key media relationships that you can nurture. When you do have news to share, consider offering a select reporter exclusive access.  A single article that reports your news is more valuable than a bunch of news briefs.
  • If you’re running a small business, you can’t create content, share it, engage with your followers and monitor your progress on too many social networks. Understand how two or three social networks can work on your organization’s behalf and start building your community with content that engages.   To get started, take the lead from other companies in your industry.  Mirror the type of content they’re posting until you’re comfortable developing your social media personality.
  • Blog at least twice per month.  Offer the blog content to the trade publications you have been developing relationships with.  Their websites (and print versions too) are generally hungry for good content in the form of contributed articles.  If you can get around to publishing a digital newsletter for your customers, include links to your recent posts.
  • Use free resources like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to respond to queries from journalists who are looking for expert sources on industry trends, new products and services and on issues you can weigh in on.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, shoestring budget is thought to be related to shoestring gambler or a gambling game. The gambling references were recorded as being used as early as 1804. Another popular theory is that since shoestrings or shoelaces are low to the ground, this is why the term is used to describe a low budget. Shoestrings are also very inexpensive, so the idea of only having enough money to buy shoelaces may also be part of the name.

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