PR strategies to steal now! Drive traffic to your site with these five tips.

Public relations is an essential component of any small business growth strategy. A well-planned PR campaign can raise awareness of your company and get other people talking about you – evangelizing your products or services for you. It can, however, be costly. If you don’t have the time or resources for a full-scale PR campaign, there are some things you can do on your own that borrow from the PR philosophy. By investing just a little time, you can quickly increase company buzz and build upon your site traffic using these low-cost techniques.

Before we dive into the tactics, though, let’s take a high-level look at what PR is. In the traditional sense, public relations involves working with bloggers, reporters and other influencers in an effort to get them to speak or write positively about your company or product. Why would you want to do this? Because every company tells people that they’re great, but when someone else says you’re great, people listen.

In today’s world of social media, anyone can be an influencer, which means anyone can be an evangelist for you. Why would they be? Because they like you. In short, this means that PR is about building relationships. When you think of it this way, it becomes much easier to work towards your ultimate goal: getting other people to say good things about you.

While building relationships is something that obviously takes time, here are five top tips to help get you started:

1. Sign up for HelpAReporterOut (HARO) at helpareporterout.com. This is a free service started by PR industry veteran Peter Shankman that aggregates reporter requests for sources for their stories. Whether you sell dog collars or motorcycle helmets, are CEO of a major corporation or a self-employed “expert,” this newsletter is chock full of PR opportunities for you.

2. Get social. Learn how to use Twitter and other social media tools. Search for people that are talking about your industry and start talking to them. Don’t just promote yourself! Actively engage them in conversation. Remember how your mom encouraged you to talk to the other kids during recess? She may or may not have told you that listening is just as important. Think back to being a kid. Social media isn’t so scary – it’s just like talking to the other kids on the playground. Jump in and give it a shot.

3. Learn how to write a news release about a new product or service. There are a number of sites offering advice in this realm (TopRank Blog is one of my favorites). A few tips to get you started: Make sure your “news” is actually newsworthy. Write for your customer – get rid of the industry jargon. Nine times out of ten, your customer won’t know what your “industry-leading, super-technologically advanced” contraption is. Tell them how it will benefit them and make their lives easier. And make it simple! Choose the most affordable and relevant distribution mechanism for your news and issue your release. You can do this over a newswire ($200-$1000+), a web-only press release service (free-$200) or just post it on your website and share it with a few key influencers, per the tip below.

4. Get to know the reporters, bloggers and influencers in your industry. Do the research online to see who really may be interested in your company and approach them politely with your news, or find another way to strike up a conversation. Maybe you have a comment on their latest story. Maybe you know of another expert they’d be interested in meeting. Find ways to add value to the relationship, as opposed to simply pitching yourself. This is the best way to build the relationship, get people to like you, and think of you when they have a story to write that you might be a fit for.

5. Guest blog. Guest blogging is a great way to position yourself as an expert and grow your audience. By writing balanced articles that pertain to your industry on other people’s blogs, you’ll build credibility, gain additional visitors to your site and enhance your search engine optimization efforts. Many bloggers are looking for additional content, so if you take the time to write a neutral (read: not self-promotional) piece that their audience would genuinely be interested in, there’s a good chance they’ll take you up on it. For a great primer on how to get started guest-blogging, check out this guest post on CopyBlogger.

These are just a few things that you can do to gain more exposure for your company through the realm of PR. You can find lots of great resources on the net about doing your own PR, and when you’re big enough, you can hire someone to help. In the meantime, remember that the best thing you can do is focus on building relationships. Be nice, be helpful - to your customers and others in your industry – and good opportunities will come your way.

Good luck!

Ali Croft is co-founder and director of PR at Just Drive Media, a boutique PR and online marketing consultancy. She shares thoughts and news about PR and affiliate marketing at www.twitter.com/JustDrive.