4 Free PR Tools No Small Business Owner Should Live Without

Good PR has the potential to become a significant source of brand recognition and act as a primary sales reference funnel. And unlike advertising or marketing campaigns, which usually require you to spend up to thousands of dollars, PR is free. Here are few tools to successfully implement a PR strategy for your small business.

Running a small business is one of the most exciting ways to earn a living. But with so many hats to wear at once, it can become easy to overlook important tasks that help drive the growth of your business.

Public relations – or in other words, press relations – is a prime example. Good PR has the potential to become a significant source of brand recognition and act as a primary sales reference funnel. And unlike advertising or marketing campaigns, which usually require you to spend up to thousands of dollars, PR is free.

With the right tools, you can successfully implement a PR strategy for your business with no budget and minimal time and effort. Here’s how:

HARO, abbreviated for “Help A Reporter Out”, is just that – a tool that lets you (literally) help a reporter out. But it can be used to help out your own business as well. An online service that sends out media queries via email up to 3 times a day, HARO gives businesses opportunities to connect with journalists looking for specific sources on upcoming stories. All you have to do is sign up to receive their daily email queries. An easy way to think of the service is like reverse story pitching: reporters ask for subject-matter help, and in return they give businesses a window to pitch their service or product if the subject-matter is relevant enough. Some tips for using HARO:

  • Keep your pitches brief, but informative. Remember that reporters are on tight deadlines. Be helpful, but don’t send them 5 paragraphs of marketing jargon. Instead, answer their query requests as concisely as possible (and skip the BS).
  • Don’t send attachments. HARO responses are sent through a separate third party portal, and attachments can fill inbox storage very quickly. If you want to provide additional content, include a link in the body of the email instead.
  • An example of what a HARO query looks like:

Example of HARO query

Social media can be very time-consuming, especially when there are multiple accounts to manage at once. And we all know that regardless of business size or industry, there’s no escaping social media marketing. Cue Hootsuite, a social media scheduling platform that lets you create and manage editorial calendars in one centralized place. You can link up any of your business’s social media accounts and see engagement and content feeds in a single dashboard. There’s no reason why any small business owner should be spending more than a couple hours a week managing social media, and tools like Hootsuite make that possible. Some tips for using Hootsuite:

  • Promoting an article or content your business is already mentioned in through social media is a great way to generate even more buzz. Remember the 80-20 rule of content and press strategy: 20% is the actual content, 80% is distributing the content.
  • Social media is not just a channel to promote your product; it’s also a way to educate your users and inform them about relevant news in your industry as a thought leader. Keep social content balanced between company news, product updates, and relevant topics your customers will find helpful. This is also a good way to gain their trust.
  • Use the “Suggestions” tool to post links from around the web that are relevant to your industry (without the hassle of doing the research). All you have to do is type in keywords related to your industry, and Hootsuite does the rest.
  • Use Hootsuite’s URL shorteners when linking out, and then use the URL click stats tool to track which links are being clicked on. This will help you figure out what kind of content receives positive engagement from your readers.

Small Business PR Tool Hootsuite

Mention is a digital media monitoring tool that helps businesses track when and where their business is being written about. It can also be used for social media monitoring, brand tracking and influencer research. Mention monitors billions of sources across the web in over 40 languages in real time, meaning you always know when your company is being talked about. Good PR isn’t just about getting your business name out in the public; it’s about joining the conversation your business is already a part of, and Mention enables you to do just that. Some tips on how to best use Mention:

  • Use the Favorites tool to filter out which mentions are worth responding to. Once you have gone through and selected relevant mentions, join the conversation by either adding valuable content in the comments section or continuing the dialogue by sending a friendly email to the author. Remember that a very important part of PR is building relationships.
  • Create an organized system for compiling media mentions you receive through Mention. At the end of the month, take a look at the report and see if you can find any patterns related to the type of content and publication that your business is being written in. Use that insight to help craft a press strategy based on what you know already works.

Google Analytics
The benefits of using Google Analytics are endless for small business owners on a budget. You can track marketing campaigns, optimize sales funnels from acquisition to retention, and even learn about customer demographics through segmentation sequences. The true benefit of Google Analytics for PR purposes, though, lies in its ability to track referral traffic. Any website or publication that links to your business will show up as a referral source, and from there you can look at page sessions, bounce rates, conversion rates and more. This insight provides invaluable information about where your potential customers are coming from, which means you can hone in on your PR messaging and target audience using actionable data. Google Analytics can be a bit tricky to set up, especially if you want to track traffic behavior coming into your site. Luckily, Google has tons of resources and support pages to guide you through everything.

Using these free tools can help you automate and streamline your PR strategy to help get your business that buzz that it deserves.

3 Spooky Marketing Buzzwords That Small Businesses Shouldn’t Fear

Don’t be scared of the big, bad marketing buzzwords! In this post, our friends from BoostSuite shed some light on these not-so-spooky phrases so you can market your small business effectively.

This guest post is brought to you by BoostSuite, the easiest way to build more website traffic and get more marketing conversions.

First off, Happy Halloween! I hope you have an awesome costume planned. Are you going scary or funny? I personally like ironic, funny costumes because I’m easily terrified and not afraid to admit it.

As small business marketers, there are a lot of things that scare us. We’re afraid that no one will ever read or share our amazing content. We’re afraid that our calls to action aren’t converting as many visitors to customers as they should be. We’re really afraid that we’re using the wrong keywords to optimize our website copy with.

There are a lot of spooky buzzwords being tossed around in the internet marketing community. These buzzwords send chills up and down our spines. They may sound scary, but it’s the threat of the unknown that’s most frightening.  As marketers, knowledge is power. The more we know, the easier it is for us to do our jobs, and do them well.

Today I’m going to explain three of these spooky buzzwords, and why you shouldn’t be so scared of them.

1. Encrypted Keywords

Whenever I hear the word “encrypt,” I always think about that gross, rotting corpse of a TV show host, the Crypt Keeper. Remember that dude? He was freaky looking.

This buzzword doesn’t have anything to do with keeping your keywords somewhere beneath the church from a Dan Brown novel. It’s referring to Google’s decision to stop providing third-party keyword tools with organic search data. This means that you won’t be able to use your favorite keyword tools to find out what your visitors are searching for to find your website. You won’t even be able to use Google’s trusty keyword tool anymore unless you have an AdWords account with them.

The good news is there is a way to use Google Webmaster Tools to find your cumulative keyword data, or all of the keywords that any page on your entire website has ever ranked for (even if no one clicked on your listing and visited your website). This includes way more keywords and gives you a more complete picture of the keyword authority that you’ve earned in Google’s eyes. This is way more valuable than individual visitor keyword data.

Once you have your cumulative keyword data, you can add it to your BoostSuite account so you won’t have to pump the brakes on your content marketing strategy worrying about encrypted keywords.

2. Curator

Here’s another buzzword that puts an image in my head of a lonely old man who’s a cemetery caretaker, walking through the rows of graves on a dark, chilly Fall night, with only an old lantern lighting his way. He’s completely oblivious of what may be lurking in the shadows just a few feet away.

Even though that’s way off from what the word actually means, it still sounds a little spooky. In fact, a curator, in the sense of a content curator, is a web user who ingests, analyzes and contextualizes content onto a platform or into a format the mainstream can understand.

Put it this way, if you’re on Tumblr or Twitter, you’re a curator. If you’re a small business marketer who reads an article, then writes a rebuttal article imparting your expertise to contradict and disprove the original article, congrats, you’re a curator too.

Curating content is a great way to get ideas for your blog posts via organic search. You are blogging on a weekly basis, right? (cue creepy music)

3. Engagement

I know, this one isn’t really Halloween themed. But, this buzzword can still be more frightening to bachelors and men in relationships considering “dropping the question” to their girlfriends than the previous two I’ve mentioned! :)

From my own personal experience, getting engaged was a bit scary. Not because I was second guessing my decision, but because I had planned an over-the-top proposal with a bunch of moving parts that luckily, all fell into place at the right times, resulting in one of the happiest moments of my life.

Engagement, from a small business marketing perspective, is online consumer actions, including likes, shares, and comments. We often create engagement strategies in our content marketing campaigns to foster relationships with our communities (very similar to a real engagement). Engaging your audience is a must if you plan on having a successful content marketing campaign.

That Wasn’t So Scary, Was It?

You can uncover your eyes now. The worst is over!

Small business marketers don’t need to be afraid of these buzzwords that go bump in the night. They’re really not that scary now that we know what they mean and how to leverage them in our marketing campaigns.

Encrypted keywords doesn’t mean the death of keyword research and SEO. Curators are continually repurposing content to offer valuable insights, and more small business marketers are focusing on engagement to bolster their online communities and spread the word about their products and services.

Do you know of any other spooky marketing buzzwords that small businesses are afraid of? Let’s hear them in the comments!

ryan kettlerAbout the Author

Ryan Kettler is Director of Communications for BoostSuite. Ryan is an internet marketing zealot, sports fanatic, devoted runner, avid golfer, beer connoisseur, and live music enthusiast. When he’s not helping BoostSuite customers he can be found running 5ks, sampling IPAs, and cheering on his North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Image via Flickr


How Blogging Can Help Your Small Business

Blogging can seem daunting for small business owners, but it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Also, you likely have more to blog about than you may think. Read on to find out how blogging can help grow your small business.

As a small business owner you may think to yourself, “Who has the time to blog – and what the heck would I blog about anyway?” Those are two great questions with simple answers. Blogging doesn’t have to be time consuming, and you have more to blog about than you can imagine– you own and run a business, and there’s a ton of awesome information you have right at your fingertips. Blogging is big business for small businesses so let’s dive in and see how it can help yours.

Be Authentic and Your Fans Will Follow

Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, shares her experience about how she started blogging, “ I started the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog back in 2005 after I attended a Blogging for Business conference and got inspired. I was a little nervous because I really wanted to ‘write like I speak.’ I thought I had to be super professional in how I wrote. One of my first posts was titled How Often Should You Email? I wrote it the way I would give advice to a friend with a small business and it just clicked!” Popick goes on to say, “It actually felt liberating to be myself and not try to be some stodgy, tech-speak, brochure-like writer. After that, all of our marketing materials started to relax a bit, from our website to the datasheets we produce and everything in between.”

When you embrace who you are and provide a unique point of view in an authentic way, you can set yourself apart from the masses and begin to develop a loyal fan base.

Add Value/Provide Utility

When we attended New Media Expo this year, we had the opportunity to hear Jay Baer, a social media strategist, author, speaker and President of Convince and Convert. Baer presented Youtility: How Smart Companies Are Helping, Not Selling.

Baer explained that “Youtility” is the concept of providing valuable content for your readers and customers, to the point where your company becomes valued, trusted and synonymous with being useful. So when the time comes to make a purchase, your company is the obvious choice.

You can discover your customers’ needs in a number of ways, one of which includes discovering what your current or potential customers may be searching for online. Use a keyword search tool, such as Google Keyword Tool, and uncover terms or words that people most commonly search for that are related to your business. This will help you determine what people need, what challenges they may be facing, or what they’re looking for specifically.

Also, observe conversations happening on social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Quora. Follow hashtags related to your business or industry on Twitter and see what sort of questions people are asking. What kind of content gets shared, commented on and retweeted? Quora is also super-useful since it’s a question-and-answer social media site and community, entirely made up of questions people have on a variety of topics. Search and follow topics that relate to your business, and discover what people are asking so you can create content around those topics on your blog.

Your blog can become the go-to resource for your industry, the products you sell, or even your community if your business is more service-based. Providing tips, how-tos and practical advice has never been easier or more useful.

Drive Traffic

Businesses of any size need to drive traffic to their website and can use a variety of tactics, but one of the best and least expensive ways is using killer content like blog posts. Popick shares, “Content is a huge driver for acquiring and keeping customers these days, especially in the B2B world. The ability to be a thought leader, to write or shoot a video and get it out to the shareable world is all businesses are thinking about. The more content you publish, the more you help your customers, the more the search engines will pick you up and, in the end, hopefully the more business you’ll get.”

When you create valuable content on your blog, it’s more likely to be shared by your readers with their social networks, opening the door to lots of new prospects and customers.

You can monitor visits to your site and where they are coming from by using a free tool like Google Analytics, which provides a wealth of information and can help you figure out what content resonates most with your visitors.

Get Found By People and Search Engines

You don’t set out to create content for search engines, of course. You create content that helps, answers questions and provides utility as we’ve said. Remember though, you can create all the amazing content you want, but if people and search engines can’t find it, you may have a ghost town on your blog.

Use relevant keywords within your blog posts, but keep your focus on the message, because the more people find the message useful, the more people will visit the page and that’s golden to the search engines.

There you have four ways that blogging can help your business. Ready to take the plunge?

verticalresponseKim Stiglitz is the Content Marketing Director at VerticalResponse. VerticalResponse provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketing, social media, online event marketing, postcard marketing and online surveys.