In an economic downturn, marketing and sales are often the first budgetary items to get cut.

So, what can Whatcom County’s local businesses do to align what the community knows about their company (public relations), their value proposition (marketing), and close customers (sales)?

They can begin by asking the following four questions.

Question 1: Who are we?
Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek famously challenged leaders to ask themselves “Why?”

But before they get to the “why,” entrepreneurs, founders, and leaders should engage in serious self-reflection. Asking yourself “who” you are should lead to greater self-awareness and a concrete definition of what matters to you.

What experiences—professional and otherwise—created the person standing in front of the mirror? What brought you to this moment? Do the values of the person in the mirror align with the organization’s values? Have those values been effectively communicated to your team?

A leader who has no idea who she is cannot create a vision that will inspire her team.

Or her customers.

Question 2: What do we believe?
In an advertising company, creativity is valued above almost all other skills and qualifications Why? Because creativity is what makes humans human.

Stop for a moment. Look at your feet.

You may see Tory Burch Miller flip flops. You may see Air Jordan 7 Retros. You may see a white Fruit of the Loom sock with a hole in the toe. Whatever it is, all that you see is the product of someone else’s imagination.

My sock appeared in someone’s head long before my big toe could work a hole in it.

That’s why marketing companies believe in creativity. What does your company believe in?

Question 3: What have we accomplished?
A brand is a promise. Achievements are promises kept.

What have you achieved for your stakeholders? How have you made your customers’ day better or easier? Have you constructed a culture that makes employees want to come to work? Define what you and your company have achieved—and skip the spin. Deluding yourself is a waste of time. Every stakeholder who matters will see right through it.

Question 4: Why do our accomplishments matter?
Effective selling requires framing your accomplishments in a way that matters to your target audience—which begins with understanding who you are and what you believe in.

Public relations should never be solely about reputation management or reacting to self-inflicted disasters.

Instead, public relations must be an ongoing process about communicating your values, your beliefs, and your importance to the rest of the world. Communicating who you and your business are in an ongoing way—if done authentically—builds trust and credibility, lessening the need for crisis management PR.

Marketing should never be solely about tactics, tools, and platforms.

Instagram won’t make a difference if you do not have a good sense of who you are, what you believe, and why you matter—and are able to translate a sense of that into your visual communication.

And sales?

If prospects don’t know who you are, they will be far less likely to buy what you’re selling.

Nailing the communications strategy that will bring your company to the next level is never easy—but it begins by answering these four questions.