Five Free (& Freemium) Marketing and PR Tools I’m Thankful For

I know… I know… it’s been nearly two months since I last posted.


But I’m back and better than ever! In light of the upcoming holiday, check out the five marketing and PR tools that I’m thankful for. If there were a weird zombie apocalypse in which the zombies were actually just under-performing businesses and startups, these tools would be the antidote. As a small business owner, I have found them invaluable and I hope you will too. Friendly Disclaimer: I was not paid to review any of these products. I just happen to love them and thought they would be useful for you, Gentle Reader.


1. MailChimp: Ah, Mailchimp. Each year, they give me new reasons to stay in love. Move over Barbara Streisand, these guys really know how to keep the music playing. I have used everything from Constant Contact to Silverpop; and MailChimp remains my favorite. The email marketing service is certainly not the first of its kind, but it is the best for small business owners that want to improve their email marketing efforts with little hassle. Its drag-and-drop design interface makes it easy to design and send beautiful emails. I have a bit of coding experience, so I also love that they allow you to drop in your own code or manipulate their coding. Furthermore, their reports are easily digestible and very comprehensive. Most recently, they unveiled a new dashboard that makes snapshot reporting super simple.

So, why MailChimp over other ESP’s? For small businesses, you really won’t get a better deal. Their free version allows you to send nearly unlimited emails (12,000) to 2,000 people. If you upgrade to the Pro version, things get super spicy. Their segmenting and email marketing automation capabilities are easy to navigate and implement. And, if you ever get into a snag, their customer service department is very helpful. Never change, guys.


2. Buffer App: Buffer is perfect for managing your professional social media profiles, including Instagram! It allows you to save your Instagram posts in the queue. Then, when it’s time to post, it sends you a reminder, opens up your post in Instagram and BAM – you’re done. For the free version, you can add up to one profile from each social channel. While Buffer may not have the capabilities of the SproutSocials or Hootsuites of the SMM world, I appreciate them for their simplistic and reliable approach to social media management. I also love how easy it is to share content through their Google Chrome plug-in and their extension on the iOS app. While I don’t use it for clients who are social media heavy, I do use it for myself and for those clients who simply want to keep a baseline presence on their social media channels.


3. PicMonkey: Keeping in line with the unintended monkey theme, PicMonkey is a perfect way to make quick images for your social media platforms. They have a free version, but their paid version is definitely worth it. Instead of opening up Adobe Photoshop and designing an image, PicMonkey keeps things simple without skimping on photo quality. In fact, I used PicMonkey to design every photo in today’s post. How meta.





4. Hubspot CRM: When I embarked on my first big business development push this past October, I was searching for a tool that would allow me to stay organized. I knew I had to upgrade from my trusty Excel spreadsheets, but I didn’t want to invest in a CRM just yet. Hubspot’s free CRM really hit the spot. It’s extremely easy to organize your contacts and schedule follow-ups. Furthermore, their email tracking tool is clutch – it lets me see when my email is opened and by whom. This helps me plan out my follow-ups and interject at the right time. For example, I sent out a proposal to a company’s founder and their in-house marketing director. When I got a notification that they both opened up the email at the same time, I was able to guesstimate that they were meeting to discuss the proposal. From there, I was able to interject myself into the conversation at the perfect time and close the deal. Pretty sweet stuff – or creepy. Whatever. Predictive analytics, FTW!

I also use Hubspot for any media relations activities. I send the email using Hubspot’s Google Chrome plug-in and it provides me with a bit more insight into how effective my pitches are. For those long-haul pitches, it’s often helpful to be able to tell a client how many people have engaged with our pitches.


5. Help-A-Reporter-Out (aka HARO): Words cannot describe how much I adore HARO. Imagine a land where journalists are scrambling to find last minute sources for their stories. I’m not just talking about your local blogs and small publications, but journalists who work at the Beyonce’s and Drake’s of the media world. The premise is simple: journalists post what they’re looking for and their deadlines. From there, PR pros can respond with the answer to the journalists’ query, along with any other identifying information (bio, etc). To give you a bit of anecdotal evidence, back in 2013, I was helming the marketing efforts for a boutique real estate brokerage. While developing the go-to-launch marketing strategy for a new service offering, I opened my email and saw a query from HARO that caught my eye. Long story short, I secured a written and video feature for my client in The New York Times. Not only that, but this garnered $10M in closed real estate transactions for my client and led to countless other features in the Washington Post and more. While this is one of my biggest success stories from HARO, it has assisted with countless other media relations opportunities with other clients. For a PR Girl, this is hands down one of my favorite tools.  If you’re a small business owner reading this, keep in mind that hiring a professional (ahem!) can ensure that your HARO pitches are not only successful, but also that you properly leverage any coverage you garner.


What are your thoughts? Did you find this information helpful? Or are you just worried about whether or not there’s any leftover mac & cheese? Either way, tweet me with your thoughts: @prgirlindc.


Happy Holiday!


About the Author: Krysten Copeland is the founder of KC & Co Communications, a boutique Public Relations and Marketing firm located in Washington, DC.


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