Businesses have been hit hard in this economy and are on tight budgets. The good news is that it is easier than ever to communicate directly with your potential customers and local media utilizing an online strategy.

Here are five low cost PR tips that will help you continue to build your business even in a recession.

1) Get local with search. – Make sure your company is listed in Google, Bing and Yahoo local directories. They are free and you can even link to your web site.

2) Get listed in business/service directories – with directories like Angie’s List, Yelp and CitySearch popping up, be sure your company is listed in the relevant local directories. Be sure to ask customers to write a recommendation for your company as well.

3) Build a local media list at smaller newspapers and start a relationship. Offer advice, take a reporter to lunch. Local media is easier to reach and if you are doing neat things with the community, be sure they know about it. Having an event for charity? Send a media advisory.

4) Remember your employees. PR isn’t all about outside media relations – make sure your employees are motivated and happy. You can reward them with small things like praise (employee of the month/quarter), pizza in the office for a job well done, etc. Talk to your employees and get feedback on what is working and what is not in the office.

5) Discover social media. Start a blog and talk about your industry, not just the company. Give tips, advice, general observations. Sign up for Twitter, a microblogging site, and follow people that interest you and join the conversation. Spend some time using LinkedIn and Facebook and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. You can even ask business questions in LinkedIn and Quora, answer others’ questions and be seen as an expert in your field.