Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


5 Free PR Tools for Custom Integrators

A few complimentary solutions that will help get your company’s PR program off the ground.

Caster Communications has worked in the custom integration and connected home space for 25 years now, so we’ve seen firsthand how ultra-busy custom integrators get. And, as a small business, we know how valuable time is when you’re juggling 100 different responsibilities day-to-day. We also see some incredible success stories from teams like yours. We love seeing your award-winning installations, gleaming case studies, and testimonials in magazines and across social platforms.

Public Relations
Illustration by z_wei/Getty Images

So, if you’re a business owner in the CI space, hats off to you! We see your hard work and celebrate the wins you’re working hard to achieve. However, we also know that many of the greatest projects and ideas have not yet made it to the limelight. In an industry where reputation is perhaps just as critical as technical know-how, spreading the word about what makes your business great should be a top priority.

You may be questioning how you can justify investing in PR when you’re managing so many other priorities. While PR might seem like a luxury service or an add-on, it is crucial to fostering strong relationships with the community, growing your team, closing sales, and growing your ROI. This article is for business owners who are craving that recognition but haven’t brought themselves to take the plunge yet.

The great thing about PR is that it’s incredibly scalable. You can prioritize thought leadership on your blog or pitch your ideas to journalists and extend that reach. You can get started on one social media profile or develop a cross-platform strategy. You can take advantage of awards programs and speaking opportunities to flex your accomplishments, or you can focus on value propositions and case studies to build your own site. The right PR kickoff looks different for every company, every budget, and every timeline.

Regardless of how you start though, a strong foundation and consistency are essential for long-term success. Most importantly, it’s okay if you aren’t quite ready to make a massive time investment or hire a pro. These five free (yes, free!) resources can help you get off the ground and establish your strategy.

Muck Rack Academy

Muck Rack is one of the most trusted public relations management tools on the market, with a plethora of monitoring and outreach tools to help cultivate, nurture, and track relationships with journalists and writers. While I know most integration firms won’t be trying to use a full-blown media database in between installs and business management tasks, the platform does offer an invaluable training resource for folks looking to get started the right way.

Muck Rack Academy offers two self-paced courses that each take just a couple of hours to complete: Fundamentals of Media Relations and Fundamentals of Social Media. The media relations course provides — you guessed it — the fundamental skills required to understand media pitching, how to convey your company’s story in compelling ways, best practices for media pitching and interviews, and how to manage those relationships. The social media course, alternatively, gives a crash course in social media management, detailing how to create compelling content and drive engagement with customers through today’s most popular social platforms. As a PR pro, I can vouch that these courses are incredibly fruitful and will surely help you get a better understanding of how you can use earned and shared media to grow your business.

Related: Getting Started With Digital Advertising

The PR Daily Newsletter

PR Daily is my go-to news source for all things related to the PR industry because it’s both a news source and an invaluable roundup of tips, tricks, and updates from thought leaders across the PR industry. The site compiles insights on the latest social media algorithm updates, writing tips, media relations strategy recommendations, and more. If there’s a skill you’re looking to develop in the realm of content and media, chances are you’ll find some solid advice here.

While I love the website, the newsletter is the real gold mine: Not only does it compile the top stories and updates from the day to streamline my industry research, but it also appears in my inbox every single day so I have no choice but to explore. If you’re looking to start learning about public relations or want to know more about a specific topic — like how to grow your LinkedIn engagement or leverage this year’s best social strategies — skip the long Google search and subscribe to the PR Daily newsletter.


If you really have no idea where to begin, this one’s for you. PRontheGO is a free resource for entrepreneurs, small business leaders, and startups alike, offering a flurry of DIY PR advice from global professionals. Founded and led by entrepreneur Melanie Marten, the site is designed to help explorers of PR take advantage of the evolving digital communications landscape.

All you need to do is head to the website, select your industry, and explore a comprehensive collection of tools suited to a range of budgets, experience levels, and business goals. With a pitching guide, a PR jargon glossary, a solid blog comprised of insights from PR pros, and comprehensive lists of low-cost and free media relations opportunities, there is no shortage of opportunities for trial and error as you explore what PR can bring to your marketing mix.


I recently stumbled upon OnePitch by accident, but I’ve been using it as part of my media research routine ever since. OnePitch was founded to help PR professionals identify journalists who might be interested in hearing the stories they have to offer. It provides a template-based approach to curating your pitches, guiding you toward tighter ideas, clearer organization, and a better understanding of how “newsworthy” your pitch really is. Then, it runs its algorithm to sort a list of journalists covering your topic area, with metrics to describe how good of a match they are and why.

If you’re looking to start some buzz around your company through media relations — whether you’re sharing your latest press release or pitching your boss for a Q&A — OnePitch is a great research tool to get you started. It’s also great for tracking progress and success, with a built-in recording function. Finally, I’ll add that its team is always open to feedback and incredibly cordial and helpful. As they continue to grow, I hope you find its SaaS as valuable as I do.

Related: How to Create a Simple Marketing Plan

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

HARO is one of the most trusted tools in the PR industry, and it’s an especially excellent opportunity for custom integrators and their partners. It’s a newsletter-like roundup of queries sourced from journalists seeking expert insights to include in their content, from local newspaper articles to tier-one magazine placements. Subscribers receive daily emails in the morning, afternoon, and evening with new queries from journalists.

HARO is a great tool for companies looking to get their name in the news because submitting a quote is as simple as sending an email. While there won’t be a relevant query for your business every day, I’ve come across hundreds of journalists over the years who are seeking insights on smart homes, home improvement projects, renovations, energy efficiency, wellness technologies, interior design, and more. Subscribe and keep your eyes peeled; you might end up in your favorite national newspaper or trade magazine!

Not every company is ready to invest in a full-time PR program — and that’s okay! These resources can be the first steps to long-term success. My hope is that this blog helps a few folks get their PR program off the ground, but, eventually, your business might outgrow this list. If you’re ready to move on to the next step and really dive into PR strategy, check out Caster’s blog for more tips and ideas.

Lexie Gardiner is a senior account executive at Caster Communications, an award-winning global public relations, social media, and consulting firm specializing in the fastest-growing verticals across the technology industry. Prior to landing at Caster nearly four years ago, Gardiner leveraged her knack for writing and public relations to support a range of growing small businesses, non-profits, and events groups in technology, health care, and higher education. A New England native with a passion for storytelling, Gardiner earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in public relations and communication studies with a concentration in writing and rhetoric at the University of Rhode Island, where she often returns as a guest speaker and student mentor.