The Latest Trends in Marketing and Public Relations

Five Tips and Tools to Grow Your Business

It is challenging to find time to focus on building your business strategically, but working from a strategic marketing plan throughout the year is very important. It will save you a significant amount of time, energy and money, not to mention produce measurable results. Here are five low- or no-cost tips and tools to consider when building your strategic marketing plan:

1. Media Relations. Identify 2-3 publications or blogs that would be ideal targets for your business news or industry and start to build relationships with the journalists. Share your story ideas and newsworthy information on a regular basis. You can do this by sending a press release or just call and leave a message about your story idea – this is called a pitch. Be sure to read the publication and articles by the reporter you are pitching! Building a trusting relationship takes time, this is no different. If you do your homework and share only relevant, newsworthy ideas, then you will become a good source and ultimate generate free publicity – a true win-win.

2. Pitching Tools. HARO ( and Muck Rack ( are a couple of great online tools to help you identify journalists and bloggers interested in hearing your story ideas and news. You will want to become familiar with Twitter ( before using Muck Rack. PitchEngine ( allows you to post social media releases online and includes free links to your images and video, as well as a “tweet” button for readers to share your news with their followers. As with any new tool be sure to read the ground rules before jumping in.

3. Inspiration. How do you know what is newsworthy? Do you need references, images, or stats for your press release or blog article? Use your network of colleagues, family, and friends by posting a question to your Facebook Page ( or LinkedIn group ( In addition, set up Google Alerts ( to notify you of news related to a particular word, phrase, topic, person, business or whatever. Zemanta ( is another tool that works to source relevant links, articles, and images while you work on your blog or press release. These tools are relatively easy to figure out, but if you need help do not hesitate to call out to someone in your social network, this is another way to connect and share what is going on in your business.

4. Inbound Marketing. One of the latest trends has turned traditional marketing upside down… and gave it a shake! Visit your local bookstore or and order this book by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. The concept moves away from the “push” of traditional forms of marketing- print ads, trade shows, and direct mail. It focuses your marketing efforts on building great content around your business offerings, then making sure your business and content gets found (search engine optimization or SEO) as many consumers now turn to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to get informed before making purchasing decisions. Google recently published a short video with data from its research in 2010, the video included information like:

  • 60% of moms search for coupons or special offers,
  • 75% of patients search symptoms online before discussing it with doctors, and
  • 40% of travelers search for consumer reviews online before booking their next trip.

5. Planning for Success. Creating a strategic marketing plan will help to focus your time and resources toward results-driven activities. Incorporating tools and processes for measuring the results of your marketing efforts is critical to know what works and why. Work with a knowledgeable marketing consultant to help you create a plan, implement it and track your success along the way. “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” Lewis Carroll.

These are just a few of the many trends and helpful marketing tools available to business leaders today. What are some of your favorites?

Shara Darden is the principal of Firefly Markting & PR (@soarwithfirefly). Firefly Marketing & PR provides cost-effective, strategic marketing solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. We specialize in working with business leaders to develop a strategic marketing plan that will guide promotional and public relations activities toward greater success. For more information and to receive our free Marketing Illuminations newsletter, please visit or call (443) 420-8359.

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