When it comes to communicating the credibility of your brand to the world, PR (Public Relations) is very simply, hands down, the best channel.

Contrary to what most people think, PR is one of the most cost-effective methods of raising brand awareness for your business and, in essence, increasing sales.

Product placements in popular magazines, newspapers or TV stations help cement brands as trusted authorities within their categories.

A simple positive comment or tweet about your product from an internet user can add an extra layer of trust and credibility to your brand, which can also translate to some new business for you. Now imagine the effect such comment--more like news--will have on your brand when it comes from a powerful and respected third party, like a media house. That's the power of public relations.

Public Relations is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the media, and in turn, the public. It may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.

Now let's dive into the practical aspect of how you can use this powerful medium to grow your business.

Here are 7 tips for using PR to grow your business:

1. Be Your News Source

You want to be in control of the news angles published about your brand. You don't want to risk someone else impeding on your own brand identity, which may not align with your company's ethos and values.

Create a news page on your website where people can go to fetch authentic news. Make sure to proactively distribute your news through several sources, online and off, as well.

2. Write Great Content

When putting together a pitch or press release, keep the content succinct and solution-oriented. Focus on a particular, widespread problems faced by readers, offer the solution, and describe in depth how your company is involved.

This looks more natural, and is also what magazines and newspapers look to publish.

3. Be Honest

When releasing company information, always be honest and never stretch the truth, or hide anything from the public.

A successful brand is an authentic story told well. Your story need not only be well-told, it must be authentic. Doing otherwise would only hurt your brand instead.

4. Keep Up with Trends

To be seen as a reliable source of information and leader within the space, you need to be conversant with the latest trends in your industry. Keep an eye on what people are saying via trends sources like Google Trends, social media, news, industry reports, forums, etc. to know what's hot in your industry, and then come up with relevant topics you can become an authority on.

As the veteran PR professional, Nancy Behrman says, "PR is an invaluable asset to established and growing brands alike. Not only does it generate buzz and awareness, it helps weave and perfect the brand story. Public relations, at least in the way Behrman Communications works, is much more than a service or liaison to the media. We become a true part of the team that is equally invested in the brand's growth. If a brand has a great story, passionate founders at its core, and a stellar public relations team, it can only be set up for success. Together, a team like that becomes unstoppable storytellers, and the media and consumer attention naturally follows."

If you practice this constantly, you'll have more than enough great ideas to pitch publications, and you'll begin to score more citations and publicized press releases.

5. Build Your Media Network

Build your network with reporters and journalists in your area of specialization and become a trusty source of information. Build a reputation for giving great valid information, and with time you will enjoy quality media mentions. Nancy Behrman explains, "Strong, amicable relationships with the media are at the core of Behrman Communications, and are the bread and butter of any successful public relations firm. Over thirty years, the agency has developed collaborative relationships with everyone in the industry from editors to manufacturers and retailers, which sets our brands up for mega exposure and success."

6. Add Social Media to the Mix

Social media is also a great public relations channel. Don't focus all your PR efforts on media houses only, share your company information via your social media channels too. Remember that when someone gives negative feedback on social media, attend to it immediately by giving an apologetic reply, with confirmation that their issues are promptly being resolved. Then contact them privately.

7. Be Consistent

You don't experience success with PR overnight. You must have a long-term PR plan mapped out, and with time and consistent efforts, your brand would distinguish itself and attain the desired recognition.

If you still don't get good results after you've done everything you can, you can hire a PR firm for help.

There you have them: 7 tips that will help you grow your business via PR. If you have other tips not mentioned here, kindly share them in the comments.

Published on: Jul 7, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.