Growing your reputation is fundamental to business success. This is as true for multi-billion dollar international car manufacturers as it is for one-person copywriting business.
Each piece of content you create helps to build your reputation and credibility. The downside is that creating online PR content is time-consuming. However, there are many free tools that can make the job easier.
All these tools have free versions, not just free trials.
Section #1 – Content Tools
Content tools help you to write better PR content faster.
1.1 Writing Software
You don’t need to pay Microsoft for a copy of Office because there are many alternatives that are cheaper or free and that will still save documents in the docx format. All the links give you unlimited access to free word processing and other office software.
- Softmaker Free Office http://www.freeoffice.com/en/download
- Apache Open Office https://www.openoffice.org/download/index.html
- Libre Office https://www.libreoffice.org
- WPS Office Free https://www.wps.com/office-free
1.2 Grammar checking
None of us have perfect grammar, and it is too easy to overlook mistakes in your own writing. Grammar tools aren’t perfect, but they help, and every writer should use one before submitting work to an editor.
Some free checkers only highlight errors and even premium grammar checkers are far from perfect, but they can help a lot.
- Grammarly free browser plugin https://www.grammarly.com/
- Grammar Base http://www.grammarbase.com
- Small SEO Tools Grammar Checker https://smallseotools.com/grammar-checker/
- Free Grammar Check https://www.grammar.com/grammar_check.php
Sometimes you need a font you don’t have on your machine. Other times you want to make sure your use of a font is legal. One option is to download the font you need from one of the sites below. However, you need to be aware that these sites make their profits by selling premium fonts and some of them make it difficult to find free fonts.
Sometimes you need a quotation to add a little color to your writing. If you can find someone famous who thinks as you do, it lends your article a little authority. Check terms and conditions because some sites only allow free personal use.
1.5 Mind Mapping
If you need PR visuals for blog posts or printed materials, mind-mapping tools can generate impressive graphics in just a few minutes, even for a first-time user.
Even the best of us need inspiration at times, and a free headline generator might get you out of a hole. The headlines you get are built to a formula, but you can then create something better by using the generated title as a starter for your own ideas.
Section #2 – Visual Tools
Visuals are essential. Nobody is going to read a page of text without at least one or two images to break it up. A large part of the population learns visually, and to ignore this group would be expensive and a rookie mistake.
2.1 Image production
Most stock photos are over-manipulated and over-used. Nobody needs to see another group of beautiful people looking at a laptop screen. Originality matters.
Many sources of images online are suspect, where photos have been stolen and remarketed as public domain images. Using these photographs could lead to expensive legal battles you will lose. Forget Google images as a source and instead, use a stock agency like PikWizard that takes its own pictures. Check that any stock photo agency you use has model releases available.
Check for other uses of any picture you buy using a browser extension such as TinEye
Alternatively and for guaranteed exclusivity, use your own drawings or camera.
Online tools like Design Wizard allow you to add text and photos with other graphics to create compelling branded images.
- Pik Wizard – Free stock photos https://pikwizard.com
- Design Wizard – Online Graphic Design Software that allows users to create unique visual content in minutes https://designwizard.com
- TinEye browser extension – checks for duplicates https://tineye.com/extensions
2.2 Graphic Tools
Sometimes you want to create infographics, graphs or flowcharts, and there are free tools to help you.
Infographics can be helpful, especially if you are comparing two options. However, coming up with an original idea for an infographic can be time-consuming. Most people find it quicker to adapt a template than to spend time creating a concept from scratch. Free infographic tools give you access to some templates and to infographics other users have made public. You can then delete and add items, recolor them and change the text to fit your purposes.
Graphs are tricky to do unless you are a spreadsheet whizz. Charts are as tricky as infographics to create from a blank page, but exports from online charting software make the task a breeze.
Graphs and Charts:
Section #3 – Website Tools
Thousands of people visit your website every day, but that’s as far as they get. Your site is your prime PR tool.
3.1 Page Speed
Therefore it needs to be fast. There are many free tools to measure page speed. Most also tell you which part of the page’s code is causing any delays in speed.
3.2 Browser Checks
Not everyone uses the big three browsers. Your site needs to impress even if someone is using Netscape Navigator 3 or Vivaldi 4.1. If it fails to impress, the public perception of your company is on a downward slope.
3.3 Mobile Checks
It is essential for your web pages to look good on tablets and phones because that’s how most people do their browsing.
Section #4 – Distribution Tools
There is no point in filling the computers that drive the Internet with more words, pictures or videos unless you tell people it’s all there so they can check it out. Even the best public relations content needs marketing.
4.1 Social Media Tools
Social media posts are like locusts eating away at our time. They take time to compose and time to absorb.
Tools enable us to retrieve some of that time, but you need to conduct a periodic review of all your social media profiles, and this Spin Sucks article tells you how to do that.
You could conceivably manage with all free tools, but you would need to be a master of organization to keep track of everything, which is why most companies opt for a premium subscription to their favored app.
Viral Content Bee is a platform you might not have heard of. Use it to amplify your reach. You share others’ articles on your social channels, earn points, and those points go to others who share your work on their social media accounts.
Scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite are well known, but still worth mentioning because even their free versions are powerful. If you use a chat/discussion platform like TWchat, you can book a time-slot for a Twitter discussion making the platform more useful for many.
- Social reach amplification http://viralcontentbee.com/
- G+ focused social sharing https://friendsplus.me
- Multifunctional dashboard that lets you monitor all social channels https://www.cyfe.com
- Social media scheduling – https://buffer.com
- Social media scheduling and engagement tool https://hootsuite.com
- Schedule Twitter Chats http://twchat.com
Chatbots and artificial intelligence are expected to become increasingly important over the next few years. You can build your own or start with a free WordPress Chatbot plugin. This Spin Sucks article describes why chatbots are becoming vital to interact with users.
- Chatbot available as a WordPress plugin https://collect.chat
- Adds a Facebook Messenger chatbot to your WordPress site https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-chatbot/
- WP plugin Chatbot to collect emails from visitors https://wordpress.org/plugins/gobot/
Section #5 – Monitoring Tools
Nobody can be everywhere on every social channel and search engine, but free monitoring tools can do most of the donkey work for us.
5.1 Reputation management
One complaint against your company can explode within a few minutes if the complainant has a large social following. Monitoring your reputation 24/7/365 is now essential for any business.
- Monitors all the complaint sites with one search https://gofishdigital.com/complaint-search/
- Checks 550 social platforms to see if anyone is using your brand name https://knowem.com
- Searches blogs, social media and more for brand mentions http://www.socialmention.com
5.2 Inbound links
Links to your website affect your reputation, so you need to know about them. You can ask sites to remove links or disavow them in search engines
Putting it Simply
You can get most services free, from branded images to backlink checking. However automation costs providers more, so you will never get service automation for free. Free services let you work out if you need more and whether the premium version of a service makes sense for you.
We’d like to thank Claire O’Brien for contributing this post.