It's a crowded marketplace out there. You know your company can't be successful if it doesn't get noticed. But you're starting out with limited funds. Should you bite the bullet and invest in a public relations firm? Or hope that your product and service will speak for themselves?

There's a third alternative: Instead of spending part of your precious cash on outside help, become your own PR representative. It's not as difficult or as time-consuming as you may think, explains Lynne Golodner, owner of the public relations firm Your People, and a workshop leader whose events teach small business owners how to do their own PR effectively.

Here's her advice for getting started:

1. Designate a PR hour each day.

As your schedule allows, it may be a PR half-hour or 20 minutes. But it's important to stick to a daily routine as much as possible, Golodner says. "Any time we set this hour for this or that, it becomes part of our routine. If you do a little each day you can chip away at a big project, and you can get a lot done in an hour. You can create a media list, make several phone calls, or email five people."

More important, she says, it will become a habit. Not only will that make promoting your company part of your regular routine, it will create the consistency that is essential to any PR effort. "If you do it consistently, soon enough you will see that the people you're trying to gain exposure with will start calling you. Then that hour won't even be necessary because you'll already have these relationships. It tends to feed on itself."

2. Tell a personal story.

Too many entrepreneurs focus only on their businesses when pitching themselves to the media, and that's a mistake Golodner says. "Especially with a small business, the personal is a key component. These days we have so many choices so if something about a business connects with you, that's often how you make your choice."

To illustrate, Golodner points to Drought, a brand of organic cold-pressed juice in Michigan where she lives. Though expensive, the juices are quite popular and she believes one key to that popularity is that Drought was founded by five sisters who returned from elsewhere to the economically downtrodden state to start the company. "They're finding key elements of the personal," Golodner says.

3. Write one great paragraph.

Many business owners are intimidated at the thought of writing a press release, Golodner says. And it's just as well, since sending out a formal press release may be counterproductive anyhow, in these days when media people don't even read most of their email.

Instead, she says, spend one of your PR hours focusing on one paragraph. "Can you write one paragraph that is compelling or different and will make you stand out from the crowd?" she asks. "Write one paragraph today, and tomorrow, maybe add a second paragraph." And that's it. "Two great paragraphs are far better to send to a media person than an entire press release."