Beth LaGuardia: Deep Dive on Personal Branding

March 13, 2024

Written by
Beth LaGuardia

Advantage Media’s CMO, Beth LaGuardia, drives brand awareness and brand strategy for Advantage. In this Q/A style article, Beth breaks down her own journey with personal branding.

Beth also discusses branding best practices with Yamilca Rodriguez, host of The Brand Therapist. Click here for the full podcast.

What is a specific memory that shaped your entrepreneurial mindset and personal brand?

My grandmother had a signature color, animal, and unique style of fashion. She had a personal brand and no one was like her. She was very creative and lived by the idea that “people may forget what you said or did, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

I can’t say I’ve followed that recipe exactly, but broadly—I’d like to think so. She was memorable to all who knew her, not afraid to be unique, and lived with an adventurous and kind spirit. She created “experiences” for people in her life, everywhere she went.

I’ve always been interested in the details of the business and the role of brand strategy in particular. This includes what makes one brand vs. another “lasting” in the audience’s mind. It’s important to understand the interplay of the rational vs. emotional elements that surround the brand.

One of the ways I started developing this mindset was by watching my dad who was a proud entrepreneur. I developed my work ethic and learned to appreciate the importance of the “voice of the customer” probably earliest from him. He was always asking and observing how people reacted to things he would do and basing his personal branding and entrepreneurial decisions around these reactions.

Is there something from your early years that you’re particularly passionate about, and how did it connect to your business journey?

Growing up, I played the piano and the clarinet. I wasn’t a natural talent or all that disciplined, but I mostly made up for that with the ability to sight-read and perform in the moment without anxiety.

My piano teacher also let me be authentically “me.” As a result, I was always the last to play my piece at the spring recitals. At the time, I thought it was because we were building up to my “finale” but looking back I realize that nothing really could follow songs like Flashdance. Ha!

Music has always been a passion. It makes you “feel” something. So many of our lasting memories are tied to music. Musicians are creating something special in front of an audience.

Those at the top of their craft are disciplined, professional, and not afraid to be vulnerable. These values translated over into my professional demeanor and character and have fueled my business journey.

Beth laguardia Cooper CMO of Advantage Media

How have your core values guided your business decisions and personal branding efforts?

Relationships matter most. At the end of the day, this is what we really have.

Relationships lead to trust, and trust brings a lot of desirable things: from setting you apart as the brand of choice, to market and pricing power, to leveraging new and growing platforms where you can make a social impact, to personal joy and fulfillment.

People who help you get through tough times are precious, and people to share the good times with make those occasions better. If we can “listen” more and “talk” less, we won’t miss the opportunities in front of us to impact, and be impacted by, people.

In business, listening is a core aspect of the relationship with your customer. In their behavior and their feedback lie all of the gold we need to understand how to “win” at pleasing them.

I take pride in listening “between the lines” and finding ways to add value. Investing in your existing customer base generally makes for better business results than what you’re doing to attract new customers.

The same application of “relationship” can apply with colleagues. People are generally a company’s greatest strategic asset. We need to treat them as such. And we need to protect the culture—which means hiring, supporting, and developing team members who live the brand values.

How do you stay authentic to yourself while managing the image and reputation of your business?

You bet! Authenticity is so critical, especially in the world we live in – with Artificial Intelligence that can replicate brands (images, voices) and cause damage to them.

Your reputation and your business’ reputation are intertwined. Know this and act accordingly. You can’t think that one doesn’t impact the other. As for advice, know the values you hold most dear to you and your brand and don’t compromise them, especially in moments of crisis. You have to be emotionally resilient.

Don’t compromise your brand. I actually had a boss who, when I was departing the job to take another, sent me off with one piece of advice: I care too much about people. I decided not to listen to all the advice given to me. In fact, I think this can actually be a superpower.

What advice would you give someone just starting their entrepreneurial journey?

First, you are the chief motivator.

Your enthusiasm and clarity of purpose will be motivating people to help you achieve your vision. Schedule time for this and be disciplined about keeping stakeholders in the loop. You are not just an operator with something to sell. You are a teacher with something to teach—and people are looking to you as the chief brand representative.

A thought leadership strategy will help you grow your audience and build credibility for you and your message. This means documenting your brand and content strategy, executing on that with consistency and inserting yourself into relevant conversations on trending topics that are resonating with your target audience. This is how you build awareness and trust. And trust is everything.

Second, strategy. Think about the business in sprints.

The pandemic really taught us the critical value of shortened planning cycles. Part of this is listening for new opportunities and early signals. Specifically, short planning cycles and adaptability allow you to pivot “early” when it becomes clear where the opportunity is headed. It may be that the market is telling you something you need to listen to. A test and learn approach is just part of the process.

  • One of your jobs as leader is to create an intentional culture. Remind people of mission, vision, and core values. Celebrate their demonstration of these values. Keep metrics in front of them and empower them to help solve problems when areas need special attention.
  • Don’t lose the joy. Have fun and enjoy the journey!

What role did mentors or key relationships play in shaping your personal brand and business achievements?

Mentor relationships have had a huge impact on my career path and my business success. As previously noted, relationships are core to my value system. I would tell my younger self to put more intentional time on the calendar to cultivate the 20 or so most important relationships I was fortunate to have early on in my professional career.

I do more of that now and pay it forward as much as I can. But early on, I wish I had shared more gratitude and thought more about persons of influence who were natural facilitators or who had influence in circles of impact and gave me access to them by association, or directly with their generosity.

Make a list of these people and keep a regular cadence of communication going with them. You can’t over appreciate people. It’s a fact.

Beth LaGuardia

Chief Marketing Officer

Beth LaGuardia Cooper provides leadership direction grounded in a nurturing culture that strikes a balance of performance, efficiency, and innovation. Key tenets of her marketing ...

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