Many schools have the notion that public relations means a lot of expense. While it is true that a professional full-service agency might cost a chunk of your marketing budget--if you even have a marketing budget--there are numerous ways of implementing public relations using free tactics or strategies that you already use.
While a large organization or a school that has some building blocks in place might be best advised to seek a professional, plenty of smaller schools or growing organizations would benefit just as much from a few grassroots efforts.
In an age where Internet technology is rapidly growing and new tools are consistently emerging, it is easier than ever to spread messages to the public and engage your audience in conversation. While there are certain areas in which you shouldn't scrimp--for example, training your administrators or teachers as spokespeople for the media, there are plenty of ways you can cut corners and save dollars while implementing a PR program that will generate successful results.
ReporterConnection: Sign up for a free journalist distribution mailing where reporters will post the stories that they are working on and need comments, interviews or sources. ReporterConnection is a free site that anyone can use to help garner publicity for an individual, service or organization. Look for queries related to education, academics or the topics in which your teachers/spokespeople have specific expertise.
Free Press Release: Press release distribution systems such as PR Newswire and PR Web are excellent ways to distribute your news to mass audiences in one shot. However, distribution packages can run up to several thousand dollars per press release. Though you won't get the millions of eyeballs on your headline that you would with a bona fide media company, FreePressRelease.com is good for SEO and will help your release become more "searchable" in addition to helping your Web site's page rank if you include links back. Also look into local wire services--sometimes cities or towns will have regional news wires for as little as $50 per press release.
Use Social Media. Have you ever wondered if your audience was out there waiting for you? Facebook, Twitter and a number of other growing social networks are available for little to no cost. If your organization already has a large community presence but you're unsure of how to reach it, set up a Facebook page and Twitter profile. If you update each page daily with news and anecdotes about your school and community, you'll find like-minded social media users to engage--some of whom may be parents, alumni or prospective employees.
A social media expert, freelance writer and public relations professional for many high-profile companies, Maris Callahan is the author and publisher of the food blog In Good Taste and the new Chicago online lifestyle magazine My Daily Find Chicago.
Copyright © 2012 Education World