B Informed About Public Relations (PR)
I'm all about the dictionary. Give me a word or phrase that you don't know (and perhaps I don't know) and soon after you'll find me trying to define it or find a synonym for it. VisualThesaurus.com happens to be my online dictionary of choice these days, but I can bet you've used a website like Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster.com to check out a definition in the past. We're all becoming masters of new subjects because it is so easy for us to look up the original or best current definition.
Try looking up public relations (or PR) sometime. Even though it is part of marketing, and a core competency for any communicator, public relations is a field (and a term) that is often misunderstood. In fact, PR has come to mean just about anything these days. For some people, it means what we should call publicity, or trying to raise awareness through news outlets (also known as media relations). For others, PR is a catch-all phrase for goodwill between a company or organization and its customers, clients and/or members, so all interactions are meant to be classified as good PR. Others are convinced that PR is a sporadically-used tool, only helping to combat negative opinions or spin situations around so the truth is better perceived by audiences. (This definition, in particular, should be removed from any marketer's vocabulary.
None of those hit the mark, really—especially if PR is only regarded as a way to fix behavior.
Here's the problem with relying on those types of definitions: PR is about a relationship, first and foremost. The one that exists between your brand and the people who know you, have heard of you and are yet to even hear of you. PR should be focused on the company or organization you are now, and about communicating who you want to be with everyone who comes in contact with you. And, just like any healthy person-to-person relationship, you keep on working at it by communicating well and often.
You might be interested to learn that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently sought to find a modern definition of PR, and released this updated understanding of the phrase on March 1, 2012: Public relations is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Most of us in the industry are pleased with the direction of the description because we understand that PR is a constant endeavor that involves planning to communicate well with others, executing on that plan, listening to the feedback received and giving that feedback high consideration as you make company decisions.
Whether you choose to engage the media (publicity/media relations), or increase knowledge about your company through event outreach, public relations activities can set you up to reap benefits. And that kind of return on investment rarely requires further explanation.