Having an awareness and respect from the news media (all sizes, all kinds) is a worthy goal for any business. If your business does something newsworthy, it's a very efficient way to reach your audiences. Some people can even get good press by being newsworthy themselves, even if what they do is a little mundane. On the other hand, courting publicity can also be dangerous. The media has no vested interest in the good health of your business. Once you realize that, you can bootstrap your program as Jason Calacanis describes in great detail. You don't need to be as self-involved as he is, but you do need to be something of an angel. Startup advisor Dharmesh Shah has a good summary of Jason's story. If this program sounds like something you could do, you may never have to pay an agency.
On Startups: Startup PR, 2008-Aug-22, by Dharmesh Shah (summarizing Jason Calacanis of Silicon Valley Insider)
5. “Your job is to transfer the enthusiasm you feel for your brand to everyone you meet.”
6. “Always pick up the check — always … everyone remembers who picked up the check”.
7. “Set a goal of creating deep relationships with a small number of folks as opposed to running around trying to trade business cards with as many folks as possible.”
8. “Be a human being. The best way to get PR is not to sell someone on your company or product — it’s by being a human being. Journalists hate being pitched … journalists and bloggers are, in fact, humans.”
9. “Before meeting with a journalist, it is your job (as CEO) to read their last five articles in full …”
10. “Your job as the CEO/founder is to create direct, honest and personal relationships with journalists.”