Q: What different online PR tools are available?

A: One of the most cost-effective ways to publicize and market your business is to use the many PR tools, methods and opportunities that exist online. Many of these are either free or low-cost PR options. With online PR, you're simply taking traditional PR and extending it to the online community. This includes targeting online and traditional media that have a significant online presence. In addition to promoting interaction with individuals, online PR allows for a very wide distribution of news and information.

The first and probably most popular method is the online press release. It seems that every day more Web sites appear, more online newsletters are published and an increasing number of e-zines are sent out by businesses. Because these kinds of electronic publications need content, editors are always looking for new information, ideas and any other creative content. Online press releases are a great way to communicate that information to editors. And of course, standard print publications also accept electronic press releases.

Online press releases are a great way for your authored content to spread without having to spend too much money. In fact, several online press release sites will let you post your press release free of charge. Some of the more popular and user-friendly sites are PRWeb, pressboxand WebWire.

Internal PR, or PR on your site, is another form of online PR. Once press releases are written and distributed, posting them on a separate Web page gives you more bang for your buck. You can take this a step further by developing key words for each page these releases appear on and then registering them individually in search engines. Another advantage of posting press releases on your site is that you can add hyperlinks for additional information. Streaming video and sound may also be added to enhance the communication of your information.

Because editors, Web publishers and site owners want fresh content, the writing and distribution of feature articles is another way to take advantage of the efficiencies of online PR. Feature article writing is one of the best online or offline marketing techniques. Sending well-written articles to various editors and publications is often done online. I have seen many online newsletters comprised solely of articles made available online for free, written by someone else. Typically, these features are about your business or a subject related to your business or area of expertise. The following will accept your online article and publish it on their site or in their e-mail list distribution: editor@saintrochtree.com, Free-Content@yahoogroups.com, Newsletter@webpromote.comand PublishInYours@onelist.com. For more leads, type "article submission" in any search engine and you'll find additional choices.

One of the primary benefits to posting articles online is the opportunity to include a bio/contact/resource box at the end of the article. This box should include contact information for your business and background information. This resource box just might bring you more response than most paid advertisements, and it's completely free.

Online press kits, another option, are becoming more and more popular. An online press kit contains the same items you'd find in a traditional press kit, but it comes in an electronic, Web-friendly form. For more on press kits, visit www.market-for-profits.com/info_pr.htm#7. When online press kits are put on your Web site, that area is usually called an online press room. These press rooms might contain any of the following: articles about the company that have run in the media, white papers in PDF form, company position papers and statements to the press, industry statistics, and usually the names and contact information for those responsible for PR within the company.

Other cost-effective online PR strategies that work well include e-mail marketing and announcements; posting on forums, online bulletin boards and newsgroups; and online radio, which is just starting to gain in popularity.

PR on the Net is so widely used because of its ease of distribution, the broad potential of contacts and, of course, its cost-effectiveness. Positioning it as you would your traditional PR will increase the bottom and top lines of your business.

Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.comand http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at al@market-for-profits.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.