My beautiful wife is the smartest person I know. I know it may seem like I’m more than a bit biased in saying that, but it’s true. Really. And, while I know that one’s education and job don’t fully measure intelligence, it seems the fact that she owns a degree in business, graduated with honours and holds a senior level position managing hundred million dollar budgets, are facts that underscore the point I’m yet to make.  She also lives with me, talks with me about my work as a PR pro, debates strategic ideas and proof-reads these blogs. Despite all of this, when I recently asked my smart and beautiful wife what public relations is, she didn’t rightly know. Her answer: “It’s marketing for free!”

Now, I don’t have any data to back up my next statement, so I beg your forgiveness if it’s not 100 percent on point. But based on my experience and observations, I suspect that my wife’s misunderstanding isn’t unique. It’s ubiquitous, and many marketers and brand managers who hold the purse strings to potential brand-building PR programs know little more about what it is that we do, or deliver.

That’s a big problem! If the world thinks PR is “marketing for free,” why would they ever pay for it? If you don’t understand what we do, or what we provide, why would you, the brand manager, think of PR above other mar-comm options to grow your brand?

We must do better. If PR pros want to grow brand investment in PR beyond a moment of crisis (btw, how odd is it that we’re trusted most when times are most dire – and, it often seems least of all otherwise?), we must make clear what PR is, what we do, and the unique value our approach deliver. We must no longer allow people to think of PR as “free.”

Feeling acutely this urgency to define and illuminate the practice of PR in the eyes of business leaders and marketers alike, I’m going to give it a shot. And, if you are working in PR and agree with what I write, I’m calling on you to share this post with your connections on and offline.

SO What is Public Relations?

Public Relations is how a brand articulates its values and provides valuable information to those that matter most – customers, journalists and influencers of all kinds…It is your brand narrative.  Good PR is authentic, truthful, transparent and collaborative; simultaneously built-on and enhancing foundational elements of trust and credibility that inform purchasing decisions. PR is press release writing and media relations – but it’s not just that. PR is events and press conferences – but it’s not all glamorous. PR is crisis and issues management – and so much more. It’s social content marketing, brand journalism, influencer relations and activation, B2B outreach, copywriting, speech writing, key message articulation, spokesperson training, contesting, celebrating, brand protection, reputation management and communicating directly with targeted audiences. PR is a multi-channel (A)ESOP practice led by creative, enterprising, client service and success-obsessed strategic thinkers. In a nutshell, public relations is how a brand, organization or individual leverages influence to engage target audiences and achieve tangible results.

That’s right, professional public relations achieves tangible business objectives. That’s why business luminaries like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet – who know a thing or two about branding – unabashedly champion PR. Through public relations, brands reach measurable broad and targeted audiences, quantifiably engage customers in conversations and co-creating, convert readers and listeners to website visits or subscribers or customers, drive increases in positive social media conversation and user-generated content, and grow recognition of values and affinity for products.

Investing in PR is about gaining positive impressions, yes, but it’s more about opening hearts, minds and ultimately wallets. PR is a powerful, incisive and efficient brand building-tool. PR is a good, solid investment that delivers substantial, positive ROI.

That’s PR. Tell your friends in marketing. Share this with the brand managers you know. Don’t be shy. If more people, including my smart and beautiful wife, know what PR is, more brands will invest more money in what we do and love.