Marketing budgets often take a hit during economic downturns. And whether your department experiences a cutback, or you're simply on the hunt for inexpensive ways to increase your reach, Jenni Hilton offers ideas for maximizing your PR dollar in a post at Eternal Thoughts from a Sunshine Mind. Here are some highlights:

Get listed in local directories. Search engines like Google and Yahoo provide online users with addresses, phone numbers and maps. "They are free," she says, "and you can even link to your web site." Also, establish a presence with sites like Angie's List and CitySearch. Most of these listings enable ratings and reviews, so encourage customers to share their opinions of your product or service.

Schmooze your local media. Everyone loves editorial coverage from national publications, but don't neglect relationships with smaller outlets. "Offer advice, take a reporter to lunch," says Hilton. "Local media is easier to reach and if you are doing neat things with the community, be sure they know about it."

Don't forget about the people who work for you. "PR isn't all about outside relations," she says. "[M]ake sure your employees are motivated and happy." Pizza parties and "Employee of the Month" awards might seem a little corny, but they're low-cost ways to let everyone know you appreciate their contribution.

The Po!nt: While these ideas can help out when times are tough, they're worth implementing even in a strong economy.

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