PR. When done right it can be one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your brand at scale. Yet many small- to medium-sized companies don’t include any form of PR in their marketing mix, instead focusing almost exclusively on digital and SEO.

We believe that creates a real missed opportunity. Why? Because together with a highly targeted digital and SEO strategy, PR can help you reach new customers and establish credibility for your business in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with other marketing channels.

The right mentions by reputable media outlets, industry-specific websites, and other online influencers can provide backlinks which can be invaluable when it comes to boosting your search rankings. If you’re focused on SEO then you know that’s one of the many ranking factors search engines use to assess the quality of your content and the online presence of your business.

Reaching the Right Audience

Beyond the backlinks, those same mentions are also going to give you the chance to get in front of new readers that likely aren’t part of your existing audience. Here’s where you can be hyper-focused and reach out to the publications and online communities that are most relevant to your business—increasing the likelihood that any traffic back to your website is going to be more relevant and more likely to convert into a sale.

Validation for Early-Stage Startups

When we advise early-stage startups, we always recommend a heavy dose of PR as a way of validating their business with prospective users and investors. As important as digital marketing and SEO can be, there’s still something about being able to say your startup was featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, or TechCrunch that has a way of turning heads. In one particular case, a startup was able to secure a mention with arguably the top news outlet in their space—months before they were set to launch. They were able to line up new customers and accelerate their initial growth all from commenting in an online discussion around a relevant topic and it didn’t cost them a dime.

Generating Brand Awareness, Affordably

But that doesn’t mean the PR shouldn’t stop once you’re an established business. There are always opportunities to leverage your industry and product knowledge and get your business mentioned. If you’ve ever purchased print advertising, you know firsthand how expensive that real estate can be. Instead of breaking the bank on a half-page ad in a newspaper or industry magazine that might not generate one qualified lead, look for ways to share your thoughts around a particular topic that you think would be of interest to their readers.

Where to Start

Identify the types of information your customers want and where they go to get it (if you don’t know, ask). You can also leverage resources such as Help a Reporter Out to identify media outlets and influencers looking for sources around a particular topic. The basic package is free and you can get queries emailed directly to your inbox daily.

Once you have a target list of media outlets and online influencers, look for opportunities to get on their radar using soft touches on social media (likes, shares, comments). Doing so will also give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the types of content they’re writing about and sharing—invaluable information you can use to tailor your pitch around possible story ideas. After some initial rapport building, reach out and see if there is an interest.

The key takeaway is the importance of a cohesive strategy. While most businesses are fixating on digital marketing and SEO, there’s still a tremendous opportunity to use strategic PR to increase brand awareness, drive more relevant traffic to your business website, and ultimately drive more sales. Having a long list of media mentions you can reference on your site also doesn’t hurt. Just ask airbnb, Blue Apron, and Tesla.