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7 Ways to Generate Publicity Without Spending a Cent There are many ways to draw attention without paying for an ad.

By Brian Jones Edited by Heather Wilkerson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Positive publicity is a powerful tool when operated correctly. That's what I call public relations -- positive publicity. The term "PR" is so boring and antiquated. Many people don't realize how powerful it is because they don't seem to understand how it works.

What I'm about to say flies in the face of what public relations insiders want entrepreneurs and business owners to think: PR is not rocket science, and you don't need a marketing degree to understand how to do it yourself -- and be successful at it.

People in PR hold these so-called secrets close to the chest because it's job security for them. If you're a startup or small business, you may not have the capital to pay $5,000 or $10,000 a month for what could be very little in return.

Related: How One Publicity Feature Could Literally Launch Your Business

These seven tips will not only save you money, but also help build your business -- because when you start to build positive exposure, credibility follows. The more people look at you or your company in a credible light, the more it's going to help increase sales, attract new customers, lure investors and even retain talented employees. It's that powerful.

1. Apply for awards.

I like to call awards "instant credibility hacks." Of all the awards out there, 75 percent of them cost nothing to apply for. Take advantage of all the various types, whether industry related or media sponsored. Local or national, it doesn't matter. Recognition is recognition, and you don't always have to win to be recognized.

For example, how many times have you walked by a restaurant and the sign in the window says, "Voted Best Place to Eat" in Austin, or Portland, or wherever you're from? Well guess what? That sign is in a hundred other restaurant windows.

They didn't win first prize, but they were recognized as a nominee. And that's something to be proud of. People walking by don't need to know they weren't the first-prize winner. Awards are just another way to get press material out to the public that you don't have to pay for and create credibility that you can attach to your name.

2. Start writing.

Write about life lessons, industry topics, news of the day, stuff that is relevant to you. Develop thought leadership on LinkedIn, Medium or guest blogs. Think to yourself, What is the takeaway for the reader? Make sure when they finish your article, they say it was a good four-minute investment of their time and created value for them. Use op-eds and thought leadership to up your profile and to show you can use your industry knowledge to create takeaways for your readers.

This will help increase your credibility profile and make people comfortable doing business with you. It will also build your reputation and get people more familiar with you and your business, which should facilitate new sales.

Related: Food Network's Molly Yeh Shares How She Built Her Blog Into a Growing Farm-to-Table Empire

3. Bring people in.

Introduce yourself to elected officials and community stakeholders. Do what you can to set up meetings with them, whether at your office or theirs. Don't ask for anything. Instead, familiarize them with what you're doing, what you're interested in and what your company does/what your product is. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them.

Make them aware of what you want for your company in the future, so that there could be opportunities down the road to work together. The more people you bring in, the more opportunity you give yourself in the future. These individuals, once they understand your company's goals, could ask you to host an event, to go on TV with them, or to provide a quote in a local publication about how your goals align.

4. Philanthropy.

You don't always have to donate money to be philanthropic. Beach cleanups, homeless outreach, mentoring underserved children and volunteering are just a few examples of ways you can build credibility, but more importantly, make your community a better place.

Determine what you and your employees are passionate about, and get involved around town. The more your people can get out there, and the more people you meet, the more credibility you create. The more you get your name out there, the better. And all of this is free.

5. Community engagement.

Use this opportunity to get on boards and planning groups or host events. I'm going to sound like a broken record, but do whatever you can do to bring people in. Your involvement in the community, whether with downtown partnerships, business groups or Chambers of Commerce, allows you to take advantage of your connections. By getting on these committees, you can better facilitate support and get other people into your office who never would have been there before. This underutilized opportunity can bring in the likes of congressional delegates or community officials for mixers or Q&As that really get your name and brand out there for all to see.

6. Company announcements.

Do your own press releases. If you have something newsworthy or cool that your company did, spread the word. Compile a list of industry-focused outlets or local news media that might be interested in what your announcement is. Shoot them a nice email that is concise and to the point. What do you have to lose? If they cover your announcement, it gets more eyes on what you're doing and builds your credibility. And if they don't cover it, put it on your company blog and social media pages. You do not need to spend $700 to $1,000 on a wire service to blast out your release.

Related: 6 Strategies to Maximize Earned Media for Your Brand

7. Social media megaphone.

Think of social media as your megaphone. Whether you have a new funding round, a big hiring opportunity or any other type of announcement, you can use social media to get your information out there. Then, organize it so that you can reach the most people. Show how your company is active in the community and what you do as a company on a daily basis. This makes your company more relatable and can bring people in. It also loops together your media. Take a photo you can post on Facebook, get press coverage, retweet the coverage, and share it on LinkedIn. These are all ways to broadcast what you do and showcase the passion you have.

No matter how big or small your business is, these are things everyone can take advantage of. Positive publicity is not just for the people who can afford it. In today's world, we all can leverage its power.

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I tell my students all the time, if you're not telling your story and talking about your company to the outside world, don't be surprised when nobody knows who you are or what you're doing.

So have fun with it. Test your own ideas. See what works. There's no set roadmap on how to attain positive publicity.

Brian Jones

Founder of Nuts and Bolts of PR

Brian Jones is the founder of Nuts & Bolts of PR and author of The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Creating Positive Publicity. Jones teaches business owners and entrepreneurs how to leverage the power of positive publicity to grow their business and personal brand.

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