Here, from Jeff Jarvis, a blogger about media and news at BuzzMachine.com, is a pretty darn good definition of PR:
"True public relations -- like marketing -- must represent the public -- the customer -- and not the company."
Some will want to nit-pick the definition, but it aligns with my experience at AT&T -- I spent at least half my time explaining the public to company executives and the other half trying to explain the company to the public.
I won't pretend that was simply an exercise in "transparency," i.e., throwing all the doors and windows open to anyone who wanted to rummage through our files.
But it wasn't an exercise in manipulation and "spin" either.
We honestly tried to put our policies and practices in context so people could understand them.
We defined "telling the truth" as giving people the information they needed to make intelligent decisions.
And to be honest, while I was never asked to tell a lie, I did sometimes have trouble doping out exactly what the truth was. That's part of representing the public too.