An increase in sales is the positive outcome of taking the time and engaging your public.

Various aspects — brand and reputation building, customer/employee communication, morale and educating the audience around the products and company purpose — take time and are ideally why you engage your public. 

However, this has changed.

"While there are communicators who will argue that it's not our job to sell, I say the opposite," says Gini Dietrich, founder and author of Spin Sucks. "If a recession truly is looming (and I think one is), things will get leaner. If you can't demonstrate that [the] work you do is driving sales, or whatever metric is important to your organisation, you will be cut from budgets."

You can't read an article today that doesn't talk about the tough economic times that the local and global market is going through. PR is often considered a 'luxury' during times like this.

However, this doesn't mean that PR and communications is not useful; it just means that we need to focus on the value we bring to our clients far more. And this value is not hard to demonstrate if we take the advent of big data and analytics — of which increased sales has become a natural extension.

It is this type of metric that makes it easier for the decision-makers to justify their spend, which is why we are seeing a host of agencies in the communications sector — from all sectors — embrace and use analytics as they should. Data makes sense; data is seen as hard fact. But there is a caution to this.

Communications and PR must show value. There is no arguement or question against that. And yes, in leaner times, this value must be linked to supporting and driving the sales function of a company.

However, even with market uncertainty, communications professionals must still be storytellers of the brand. This means challenging clients to communicate clearly with integrity, gain loyalty with customers and build trust with investors. This takes time.

Time is needed to understand how a brand is perceived and what its stakeholders care about most, as well as to adapt. If you want to drive value into your market — real value attached to loyalty and understanding — then your communications strategy is the best place to start. But this means work and commitment.

I believe that, unless a communications agency can present real tangible value in 2020, it will not be afforded budget increases or even awarded with clients. Our challenge, however, will be balancing the quantitative or so-called 'lead-generation' value the market requires with that of our longer-term results of building trust and market reputation for a brand.

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