Too often, when small business owners create a business plan, they include advertising and marketing but neglect to consider the value of public relations (PR). I know, because I used to be one of them.

My first business plan didn't include a PR strategy. What I didn't realize was that PR could actually bolster my advertising and marketing strategies.The first time I hired a PR firm, I wasted tens of thousands of dollars and months of work because I wasn't able to provide the resources the agency needed to be successful.

Through these mistakes, I learned the hard way about the importance of PR - which I haven't underestimated since.

PR is much less expensive than advertising but can be just as effective, adding third-party credibility to products and services. Given the power and cost-effectiveness of PR, it's often the wiser choice, especially if you lack the budget for big ad buys.

Whether you choose to engage a firm, or go about various forms of PR yourself, there are a number of things you can do to maximize the impact the media can have on your organization.

Here are five things small businesses should do when starting up their PR machine:

1. Gather all of your social properties

One major function of PR is online reputation management.

As a small business owner, you need to make a list of all of the online profiles, platforms and social media sites your business is on.

That way, you can quickly crosscheck your online reputation with each of them, formulating a PR plan to potentially amplify great reviews or rectify any negative reviews.

2. Publish a media kit

Once you've gathered all your social properties into a simple list, you can publish them on a page.

I recommend developing a "Press" page that can be easily found from the front page of your site. Include the list of social properties from above, as well as a company introduction with important facts, links to mentions in the press, past press releases and company contact information.

3. Gather local media contacts

No matter where your business is located, it's important to aggregate a list of relevant contacts at print, broadcast and online outlets in your given geographic region.

If something exciting happens with your business, you want to be able to quickly reach out to try to gain media coverage, and more importantly, build a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

4. Know your industry-specific media contacts

Most vertical industries also have specific websites, blogs, magazines, podcasts and stations (e.g. YouTube playlists).

Put a list of those together as well, and look for a specific contact who you might be able to reach out to should you encounter anything that might be of interest to them

5. Have a strong writer on your team

Statements, columns, blog posts of your own and press releases are powerful ways to get noticed.

Although you can hire professional writers, it's valuable to have someone within your organization capable of getting the first draft going, especially in fields where domain knowledge is critical.

Developing and executing a PR plan is one of the best things you can do for your small business. Take advantage of the power of PR!