The 10 best affordable PR tools for small businesses
Depending on the size of your business, different options are available when it comes to public relations. The first and obvious one is to call on a PR agency which is specialised in PR and which might provide you a better chance to get coverage.
However, agencies are quite expensive and a lot of small businesses cannot afford to use their services. This is one of the reasons why a lot of businesses exclude PR as part of their mix marketing, even if that’s a mistake. Great tools exist out there to help SMEs do DIY PR at an affordable price. So here is a list of the best PR tools for small businesses.
1. Tools to plan your PR strategy
The first thing to do when starting a PR strategy is to establish a plan. Public relations, like any other form of communication, require organisation.
You need to define which stories you want to tell the journalists and bloggers. A new product or service is about to be launched? You are partnering with another business? You are organising an event? Prepare your calendar early.
You also need to monitor the news, especially relating to your industry. PR can only work if you are informed with what is going on.
Some great online tools can help you plan ahead:
- Trello: You have probably heard of Trello before and are maybe already using it. It is one of the best free project management tools on the market. It can be very useful to plan your PR strategy, and you can create a new specific board with columns for the next 6 months. The same way you create a content calendar for your website, create a press release plan according to the occurrences and events that will happen in your company and industry.
- Google Calendar: Most people use Google calendar to schedule their appointments and meetings, but you can actually use it as well for project management. The platform allows you to create a calendar for every project you are running. If you create a specific calendar for your PR, you can enter all the key dates that are important for your company. Thanks to the reminders, you can be sure not to miss any event. Once again, it’s completely free.
- JournoLink Calendar: As mentioned above, you need to know what’s going on in your industry if you want to be relevant when sending your news. The problem is that researching takes time. To solve this issue, JournoLink provides a business calendar that brings together all the business statements, events, awards and business shows that could interest you. By monitoring the calendar, you will be able to build a strong PR strategy.
2. Tools to send your press releases
When it comes to PR, the main tool you need to use to tell your story is the press release. Contrary to an ad that it is meant to be seen by your targeted audience, a press release is meant to be read by journalists. For this reason, it is very specific.
A lot of small businesses can encounter difficulties though. Firstly, they are not sure about the format of a press release, and secondly, they don’t have any journalists contact. There is no need to give up here though- solutions do exist to help you.
Here are some PR tools for small businesses offering a press release distribution service:
- JournoLink: Obviously we will start by presenting JournoLink. The platform allows you to send an unlimited number of press releases to a database of over 10 000 journalists, bloggers and broadcasters. When registering, you will be asked to select up to three industry categories to ensure that your press releases will only be sent to the relevant journalists. Also, JournoLink allows you to receive editorial requests from our journalists, giving you the opportunity to appear regularly in their articles.
- Response Source: Response Source is a similar product allowing you to send your press releases to a database of thousands of journalists and influencers. They also send editorial requests to their subscribers. Like on JournoLink, you can choose the categories you want to send your press release to. Pricing starts at £80 per release to send it to three categories. If you want to add more categories, there are different subscription plans.
- prweb: This platform offers different PR services. The main purpose of prweb is to showcase press releases on their website. Journalists and bloggers can then pick the story they need. For £59 per news release, you can get yours hosted on their website. The platform allows your press release to appear on search engines and news sites as well. For this price, you can select up to five categories. Prweb offers other plans including a press release distribution service, like the two previous ones. The pricing for this option starts at £109 per news release.
3. Tools to manage your social media
To build a good PR strategy, you also need to focus on your social media. Indeed, it is a great way to connect and to engage with your audiences. Because you have probably created many different accounts, it takes time to manage them all. That’s why some tools have been created to help you with your social media:
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite is probably the most well known social media management platform. It offers many different features to help you manage your social media, and most of the social networks are supported. You can plan your posts, track your brand mentions and even monitor your competitors, your partners or journalists and bloggers you would like to engage with. For instance, you can create lists on Twitter and then create streams for those lists on Hootsuite. You can also create a stream for your messages, your brand mention among other things. Buffer offers very similar services too.
- Meet Edgar: This platform is the best tool to save time when managing your social media. You can create an automated publication planning. Once you have prepared your calendar of content, Meet Edgar publishes it automatically. You have then more time to engage with your audiences.
4. Tools to monitor your PR campaigns
To see if your campaign has been efficient you need to monitor the results, that is tracking coverage and views. The three PR platforms I have cited in the second part provide an analytics service. For instance, with JournoLink, you can see the number of journalists reached, the number of views, the potential audience, etc. for every release you send. But to be sure not to miss any piece of coverage, some other PR tools can be interesting.
- Google Alert: Completely free, Google Alerts scans the web for you. Set up some keywords like the name of your company or the name of your products/services and the tool will track them and send the results of its search directly to your Google inbox (so you need to have a Google account). Thanks to Google Alerts, you should be able to find if you have coverage or not.
- Mention: More advanced tools exist as well to monitor your brand like Mention. Based on the same system as Google Alerts, this platform tracks your keywords on the web and on social media. It also provides advanced analytics and insights for your business. The first plan is worth $29 per month for the basic features.
This list of PR tools is obviously not exhaustive. They are many other platforms available online that could help you with your PR.
You now have no more excuses to exclude PR from your marketing mix. Remember that experts estimate that a piece of positive coverage is worth between 3 and 4 times the value of an ad.
Written by: Julie Cocquerelle, Marketing Executive