By Jodie Shpritz, Vice President of Media Relations and Branding

In planning my wedding, I recently discovered the most time-consuming, addicting organizational website. At first I thought it was just for fun, but I quickly came to realize it could also help me in my public relations career. Pinterest has become my new best friend. And if you work in PR, it should become yours, too.

Here’s a spot-on description of Pinterest’s use as a PR tool I recently read on a fellow blogger’s website (PR Geek Speak).

“Pinterest has the advantage of being just different enough than other social media platforms to make it relevant,” said Mikinzie Stuart, founder of PR Geek Speak and digital junior account executive at Peppercom. “Like Tumblr, it’s heavily based on graphics but has the functionality and organization of social bookmarking platforms like Delicious. Typically when you pin something, you’re not just sharing an image, you’re sharing the link to that image, whether it’s a how-to, a blog post or a product on a retailer’s website.”

Here’s how it works. You create a free account. Members can then pin and re-pin items onto boards they create. (I suggest first using the search button to see other people’s boards to see some examples and help get you started.) Pinterest allows you to create image-inspired boards and label and save items to share with others, thus, making it easy to reach potential clients, customers, fans and even share ideas all by simply clicking on an image. Just about anything can be found on Pinterest, and some popular categories include do-it-yourself blogs, parenting tips, wedding planning and home design.

Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to be friends with someone to follow them nor do you have to accept the person as a friend for them to follow you. Pinterest users can follow people by clicking to follow all of their boards or individual boards. You can also view pins from people they follow, from everyone on the site, or you can search by category or popularity. Similar to Facebook, Pinterest allows you to like and comment on pins.

The best part is that the pins are linked to the website from which the pin originated, thus providing more information on the item and directing traffic to the original website. For example, if a client has a new product or is launching a new blog, by pinning an image and describing it, users can re-pin and link back to the client’s website. Essentially, Pinterest is a visual Twitter!

While bloggers and several brands are figuring out the many uses and benefits of Pinterest, it is important that publicists include this tool as part of their social media strategy, too. At Culloton Strategies, we use words and images to educate the media and consumers on our clients. Pinterest is a highly visual medium and a natural supplement to the social media tools we already use to tell our clients’ stories. We also use Pinterest as a PR tool to help us communicate with reporters, find new blogs and keep a pulse on trends.

According to Worth of Web, a website value calculator, Pinterest is worth more than $71 million and has approximately three million visitors a day. Launched in March 2010, it has already been named among the top 50 websites in 2011 by Time magazine. And according to a recent article on The Week, “brands likeReal Simple and Nordstrom also use Pinterest to share ideas and products with their customers. On Facebook, there are some 2.3 million active monthly Pinterest users.”

So while clients might think Pinterest is a waste of time or be hesitant to embrace it, the real question is, Can they afford to ignore it?