Because your customers care. Your competition probably cares about it, too. For companies of any size and most life-stages, public relations is something businesses should not ignore.
Public relations can do so much for a company, and yet, like social media, larger companies may see PR as an alternative to what they can already afford in advertising. (It is not an alternative to advertising.) PR is better than advertising. (Yes, I'm probably a bit biased.) It may take a bit more creativity and elbow grease, but the rewards and benefits of PR far outweigh advertising or marketing activities.
The tangible evidence of reduced costs is probably the one most used when trying to create advocates for PR, but there are more, intangible results that a PR team/firm can share with its company/client. Those are:
- Increased awareness. (For less money.)
- Increased trust. (For less money.)
- Increased loyalty. (For less money.)
I think you get the point. How does PR attain the above? By being the contact person of the company. By being aware of customers online. By being responsive to those customers online. And by being truthful, transparent, and engaging. With things like social media use, press releases, websites, blogs, etc., companies can be more connected with their buyers online, be more personable, and more personified.
As has been said time and time again, PR is more trustworthy than advertising. However, with the changes in technology, companies are more in control of their PR and are able to be more involved in the public relations process. In the past, companies were reliant on the media to cover them in a publication, and that was PR. This sort of PR was more credible than advertising because it was coming from another source.
The same is true today: advertising doesn't instill credibility or trust. In fact, it can often do the opposite. See the comments here about Toyota's attempts to rebuild its brand after their safety fiasco. What was a valiant effort to say "we're making a change" came across as a rather money-wasting endeavor. Had they simply shared with others, done interviews, and communicated with their customers online about this change in spending to increase safety, WOM (word of mouth) may have done more for them than a costly TV ad.
Even though Toyota (and BP) can afford advertisements, showing us the difference in ways other than a TV ad (like through PR) can be much more successful, and much more trustworthy. (BP's ads don't make me trust them more; it makes me wonder, "Why tell me you're doing something, instead of simply doing it?")
As can be seen above, public relations today involves more things than simply getting mentioned in a publication. It involves social media, where a company can represent itself and be its own identity there. Companies can also have a blog, where they write about their company, their industry, etc., and try to set themselves apart from the crowd as a trusted source of information. This is also referred to as the process of positioning oneself as an authoritative figure. Over time, if you write on a subject, share information, or offer advice, people being to trust you and see you as a knowledgeable, go-to source