Small business owners do not always rely on the internet for new clients. In a vast majority of the cases, these businesses continue to use traditional marketing techniques like fliers and phone directory listings to get the word out. But ask any business owner who has been at least five years in the industry and they will tell you how there is nothing as profitable as “word of mouth” marketing.

But word of mouth marketing does not happen by itself. Well, you are likely to get more references as long as you do a good job and maintain a relationship with your clients. But if you aspire to grow big and open more outlets in future, then references alone may not scale enough. You will often need a catalyst. While consumer businesses mostly rely on Google for this boost up, in the case of local businesses, this often translates to not more than a couple of extra thousands in revenue – good money, but nothing to thump your chests about.

Large businesses typically tackle this challenge through PR aka public relations. Most large businesses have a PR agency on retainer basis whose job is to get the business and its owner in front of their target audience through news pieces, interviews and the occasional quotes. But how can bootstrapped small businesses reach the local media? Here are a couple of tips about how to go about it.

Create Something Viral : You don’t have to pour ice-cold water on yourself in order to become popular. A simple sign or note that says something funny or quirky is likely to get snapped and shared on social media. If you are funny and lucky enough, you could hit the local papers or even reach the larger world. Sgt. Joes, a pizza shop in Midwest City, Oklahoma experienced the positive effect of PR when a simple sign outside their shop got widely shared on reddit and eventually reached more than 15,000 people across Oklahoma.

Help A Reporter Out : For the uninitiated, HARO is a platform where reporters and writers at large media websites and blogs can reach out to the general populace for sources and quotes. These queries are sent over email to the subscribers in three batches every day. According to Jay Barnett, the founder of Prority Floorcare, the trick to getting great visibility through HARO is by being prompt in answering queries. He says, “Be the first to respond to the HARO queries and follow up quite often. The results will show.” Jay says he has been able to get featured on quite a few large websites thanks to this strategy.

As a small business owner, your target market is often your neighborhood or city. Unlike large businesses, there is no need to get PR from the wide world when the people who matter are blocks away. However, there are two strategies to get momentum through PR. One is the bottom-up approach where you reach out to publications in your suburb which gets noticed by a city journalist and this eventually gets through to a writer with a larger organization. The other is the top-down approach where you aim for the stars and get featured on the major websites. When this happens, the trickle down is much faster as all local newspapers are more likely to carry news pertaining to their locality that is being published elsewhere.

Quite evidently, the bottom-up approach is easier, but slow. But the top-down approach is quick, but tough to crack. What works for you depends on the strategies you build and how persistent you are with your efforts. Share your own experiences with local business PR in the comments below.