Most marketing programs come with a healthy price tag. That is, with one exception: public relations.

Several PR tactics can be mastered by do-it-yourselfers. You can use them to reach and persuade customers at virtually no cost. Try any of the following three tactics to spread the good word about your business:

Meet the press through media relations.
When you think of PR, media relations is probably the tactic that often comes to mind. The goal is to gain coverage in print, broadcast and online media through interviews and articles. To build relationships with members of the press, first identify which medium your target audience looks to for information on your market. You'll find a searchable database of media outlets by clicking on "Media Links" at www.gebbieinc.com . Develop a list of editors and journalists and familiarize yourself with each publication, website or broadcast program you plan to pitch. This will ensure that your message is on target.

Next, send a press release or pitch letter to your target market's preferred media outlet. Follow up the release with phone calls to the targeted journalists. Don't be surprised if you're asked to send your materials again, since the media is deluged with press releases. You may not get placements on your first calls, but as you develop relationships with members of the press, you'll establish yourself as a resource and eventually win coverage.

Get local attention with community affairs.
For some types of businesses, building a positive company image and high visibility within the local community are primary PR goals. You can enhance your company's position through a community affairs campaign that supports key issues, philanthropic endeavors and community events. For example, companies targeting the Latino market often take visible roles in local Latino community life, from street fairs and festivals to charitable giving. This establishes them as caring community members, increases their visibility and name recognition, and yields positive PR.

The key to success in community affairs is to put your efforts into activities that will gain recognition from your primary target audience and garner local press coverage. When a Washington, DC landscaping company refurbished a rundown inner-city playground, it built tremendous word-of-mouth and earned coverage in local media and an entirely new level of name recognition in its principal market area. Get the idea?

Become a recognized expert with a radio press tour.
Would becoming known as an expert in your field propel you and your business forward? Setting up your own radio press tour is easier than you think, and it's a great way to spread your name and message while building sales. Once you're established as an "expert" you'll get ongoing requests for interviews and comments from print and online media. A little coverage generally breeds more.

Talk radio programming nationwide covers a broad range of topics, from gardening to child safety and business finance. What types of shows do your best prospects listen to, and what can you share that will interest them? Talk show producers are looking for guests that can present unique, compelling ideas and present them in a way that won't put their listeners to sleep. Choose a story angle or topic that lets you shine, then write a media alert. This is similar to a press release but concludes with your availability for interviews and how to book you.

Fax or e-mail the alert to targeted producers (again, visit gebbieinc.com for a database of radio stations) along with a separate page with information they can use as a basis for your interview, such as "10 Tips for Back to School Safety," or "6 Ways to Save Money at Tax Time." Then follow up by telephone to pitch your story. Be persistent. You may need to send several alerts and tips sheets for a period of time before securing an interview. But once you give a great interview, you can bet the producers will want you back for more.