Watch your tone!

Finding your brand voice requires more effort than you think. In my first post discussing tone of voice (TOV), I pointed out how some businesses tend to spend all their energy on perfecting their image and not spare a thought for their voice.

For those of you who missed the intro, you can catch up here 👉#TONEOFVOICE

I understand that not everyone is good with words. I see this everyday, everywhere I go. Both offline and online. That is why a TOV guideline will come in handy for your team. Different people, different manners, different ways of communicating. However, your brand must be consistent on all fronts.

The way your brand logo, colours, and fonts are of significance in recognising your name, so are the words you use and most importantly, how you use them.

Think of your voice as your personality. Your tone reflects that personality and sometimes changes depending on the context.

Source: CoSechedule

Both your tone and voice are about expression. An expression of your company’s values. Here, we’re looking at how and what you write rather than following writing rules per se. Mind you, grammar is just as important. I shudder every time I see desert on a restaurant menu.

Quick tip: revise everything before publishing a message or sending material for printing. Have someone else take a look. A fresh pair of eyes can save the day.

Here’s an example of what you might think is a simple greeting. When you’re representing your brand, which one would you go for?

Or, think about this example below:

A. “Thank you for reaching out.”

B. “Hey, thanks for reaching out 🙂”

Phrase A reads more serious than phrase B. The latter reads more easygoing and fun. Different word choice and use of emojis have set a different tone to the same phrase.

Take a look at these Brand Voice Examples:

Starbucks
Mailchimp
Old Spice

Quick tips

  1. Be straightforward and avoid jargon.
  2. Use the active voice and write positively.
  3. The tone of voice needs to reflect your business objective.
  4. If in doubt, read aloud. Is it too humorous? Too formal? Too sassy?
  5. Write all this down & create a guideline.

Why does it matter?

Your tone of voice is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s what makes you different, unique and relatable. It helps in creating an emotional connection with your customers. This familiarity you create is most likely to lead to loyalty and trust.

That’s why having a brand tone of voice matters.

Need help? Let’s talk.

Amanda x

Ready, steady, work?

Inspiration hits when you least expect it.

Triggered by something as simple as rain. Weird? I have no idea how it works but as soon as the smell of rain hit my senses this morning, I felt the need to sit down and just write.

Having a one-year old running around (literally now), sitting down at my make-shift desk to work, research or write, feels like a ticking time bomb. Coffees get cold all the time. Thankfully, with the turn of the season, I can turn that into a glorious ice coffee. Win!

I’ve been working on a personal project of mine for ages and keep on hitting the pause button. For one, client work comes first. I don’t know about working mums out there but as soon as Beth’s head hits the pillow, I’m on my laptop, crossing out the never-ending to-do list. The lack of sleep doesn’t help either. Many a person suggested that I rest while Beth sleeps.

Self-care is a priority. I truly believe that you should take care of yourself first before anyone else (otherwise, you wouldn’t have the energy or be in the right mind to do so). But let’s be real. There are tons of things to do every single day and they’re not getting done on their own. You cross one thing out and add three more. It’s just how it goes.

So, I cherish moments like these. When it’s quiet and my cappuccino is still warm, the rain drums on the window (albeit for an extremely short period of time) and I write.

It’s not crazy all day, every week, mind you. I make it a point to start my day with a 10 minute morning yoga routine to stretch and get in the zone. Even with Beth climbing all over me. After that, I make a list of targets for the day. I try not to overwhelm myself with tasks. It’s better to get one thing done and do it right than start a million things and end up with a million loose ends.

How do you go about work and taking care of the kids? I’d love to hear your side of the story 🤗

Believe it or not, I ran out of list pads. Maduma launched their new products just in time and I’m in love with this collection 😍 This is not sponsored, I actually bought everything in the video. It’s my appreciation towards small local businesses (plus I 💙 the traditional Maltese tiles).

Amanda x

#inthespotlight @Malcolm Gauci

Fashion is not my cup of tea. Those who know me best, know this only too well. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t follow at all. I do have a couple of friends who are stylists; one of whom has been trying to take me on a shopping spree for months now (you know who you are).

I got in touch with someone whose social media accounts are consistently active and who does not shy away from the camera.

My second guest interview this year is with the greatly talented @Malcolm Gauci.

  • Award-winning fashion stylist
  • Style Influencer

 

While scrolling through his Instagram feed I couldn’t help but wonder how he manages to do what he does. I have known Malcolm for a while now; so we met over a coffee to talk about his world (pre-COVID-19).

Care to tell me more about what you do and how it all started?

I started out as a freelance photo model. There, I learned more about styling and met up with people from the fashion industry. I’ve always been passionate about styling; I guess you can say it comes naturally to me. Still, it’s not something that happened overnight. It takes a lot of hard work. Plus, a lot of people believed in me – and that gives you quite the boost.

At first, I wanted to have a space where I could interact with people and show my work. It’s how I started out on Instagram. Over time, I wanted to show more than just my styling work; I wanted to show them who I am, what I personally wear and connect with my followers even more.

Favourite social media platform?

Instagram. It connects you to a whole world of other people. You can easily find your niche there and can interact very easily.

I personally think that being online all the time can be a bit exhausting. Do you ever feel the need for a digital detox?

Having a full-time job that is completely different from styling and the social media world – that alone is detox enough.  Truth be told, I am sucked into the digital world. Apart from sharing relevant content with my followers, I also love documenting random things.

What does the future of influencer marketing look like in your eyes?

I think that over time, brands will reach out to the less- famous. This is already a thing; they’re called micro-influencers. And, I think having the everyday person as an “ambassador” will be the way forward.

Quick advice you would give someone just starting out? 

Stay true to yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing something that you do not believe in, then don’t do it.

Ok, super quick questions that have nothing to do with anything above. Just for the fun of it. 

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee

Favourite film?

I would have a favourite if I actually made it through the whole film

Would you rather read minds or the future?

The future

One thing you would like to cross off your bucket list?

Be part of Gucci’s creative team

Who or what inspires you?

There isn’t just one thing. I get inspired by random things I come across along the way

Go follow!

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A shift to online shopping.

This is my twelfth official day of social distancing. Twelve days of video calling, online meetings, a deep yearning for cappuccinos (the real deal) and mobile shopping. I’m used to staying at home even with a baby in tow but not for such a long stretch of time 😞

In the past weeks, we have seen a general shift to online buying. Internet traffic spiked as more people resort to staying at home, working from home and distancing themselves from others*.

Think about it. We already spent a considerable amount of time on social media, pre-COVID-19. Everywhere you turned, people were on their phones. If people are spending more time indoors, chances are, they’re spending even more time online. Now more than ever.

Consumers have more time to invest in online research and browsing. They google, they follow local micro-influencers, and more often than not, they pose questions in Facebook groups to weigh their options before purchasing.

“Are there any supermarkets delivering before April?”

“From where can I buy toys for kids online?”

The doors to many businesses have been temporarily closed. At this stage, no one knows for how long. So, LISTEN UP 📣 In no way is this the time to disappear from social media. On the contrary, turn this unfortunate situation into an opportunity to get creative and step up your game.

Restaurant owners decided to introduce and reinforce take away and free delivery. Wine importer? True, the flow of orders from restaurants and bars has inevitably come to a halt. Why not connect directly with people staying at home? Introduce deliveries. If you do not have the capacity or riders, sign up with a local delivery service.

“One of the few good things that came of this: Delivery.

How many times have you read this on your Facebook timeline or thought about it yourself even?

During mobile marketing sessions I had carried out (in collab with the Malta Communications Authority), I always asked for a show of hands. Who shops online, who makes a purchase from their mobile device? This was a couple of years ago. I was surprised at the few hands raised. Then again, the sessions were targeted at small business owners who wanted to expand their digital marketing knowledge.

🔵 Businesses – if you haven’t already, get working on a plan. Think. How do people search online? Where is your audience – Instagram, Facebook, TikTok?

Online presence is essential in this day and age. Be in social media groups, follow trends, keep up. If this is too much for you to handle, find someone who can. But please find someone who knows what s/he is doing.

🔵 The big question is: What will happen after this? What repercussions, if any, will this have on your business? Change, albeit terrifying, can be beneficial. As in this scenario.

Business-permitting, consider having an e-shop. If money-wise this is not the ideal time to invest in revamping (or creating) your website and introduce an e-commerce platform, you can always take it to Facebook for the time being. You can take orders via messenger or Whatsapp. However, be prepared. Post-COVID-19, things will be different.

If nothing, the COVID-19 pandemic has urged people to take it up a notch and go digital. Remember, if people at home are happy with the service, they might keep at it. How convenient is it for consumers to order things online and have them delivered straight to their door? Not sure about this? Ask them. The easiest way to conduct a quick survey is to ask your clients directly and see for yourself what they think.

One last thing, help local businesses. As a freelancer, I know first-hand how hard things can get during times like these. If you need help setting up, let’s start a conversation 💬

➡️ Facebook

Meanwhile, stay safe!

Amanda x

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*Source: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/internet-demand-surges-but-service-providers-say-theyre-ready.779693

Working from home

Ah, what weird times. I decided to avoid all the hassle and distance myself socially for the time being. For everyone’s benefit 🙌

I’m honestly used to staying inside for a long period of time. I have been growing my business and working from home for the past three + years now. So really, it’s just another day at the office!

Still, I so miss grabbing my laptop and heading out to my local cafe’ for a nice cup of frothy cappuccino while I work. And meetings. Actual face-to-face ones. I miss those 😥

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I could just get up, grab my things and leave for a little change in scenery. It takes me at least two hours to get little Beth and myself ready before we actually leave the house.

I think I spend half an hour preparing the bag alone. Parents would know about the bag: Change of clothing, nappies, snacks, bottles, milk powder, water flask…there’s more. But, my intention is not to bore you out of your mind.

Funny how we take the little things for granted in life, right? The minute we’re denied something, a temporary ‘lack of freedom’, we’re done for. Spare a thought for people fleeing for their lives with nothing but their clothes on their backs. People who were denied their freedom even before they were born.

It’s not the easiest time for businesses. I get that. Believe me, I do. But we will get through this. So, in the meantime, if you’re staying at home, make the most of it.

Read more, rest more! Perhaps, find a cause you believe in and help out remotely for the time being? The NGO I voluntarily work with, bBrave  (anti-bullying), is always on the lookout for new members 😉 Just saying!

Stay safe,

Amanda x

 

 

#inthespotlight @Gary Bugeja

Getting back on track with my mini-interviews is one of my top goals for 2020. First guest this year: my super talented brother, Gary. Biased, you say? Well, take a look at his work first. But yes, I have to admit, I am a little 😋

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Why did you decide to be a fashion photographer?

 I don’t think there was ever a decision – it just happened organically. I have always gravitated towards photographing people and fashion has always been a major source of inspiration in all of my projects. So I think I found myself evolving and focusing more on fashion photography without thinking too much about it.

Tell us more about your photography

My photography is always narrating a story.

A: Short and sweet, I must say

Proudest moment?

Being chosen by Tommy Hilfiger International to shoot the official Tommy Jeans digital campaign. They came all the way from Amsterdam to direct the shoot and it was both nerve-wracking and surreal at the same time.

What is your favourite photograph so far? Why?

This is one of my favourite photographs because everything came together perfectly. Cassandra is an extremely talented local actor who wanted to be portrayed in a different light. Together with Malcolm (styling), Neville (hair) & Hannah (makeup), we did a great job. This was taken for the Sunday Circle.

Gary Bugeja

What would be a dream collaboration for you?

An absolute dream collaboration would be with the genius Alessandro Michele and photograph the Gucci Campaign. I also would literally DIE if I had to work with artists that I listen to on repeat.

Not that I don’t know the answers to these already. BUT, super-quick questions to share with the rest:

Tea or coffee?

Coffee

Favourite film?

Requiem for a dream

Would you rather read minds or the future?

Minds

One thing you would like to cross off your bucket list?

Work on an editorial abroad.

What inspires you?

I get my inspiration from personal experiences, music and literature and the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

Go follow!

1   2

New year, new mum? Stay Inspired!

I dove into 2020 head first.

Given my recent transition into motherhood, I had to slow down my work pace last year. So, in 2019, I set the stage for 2020. And I’m psyched about a couple of new projects that I’m working on 🤩 Can’t share anything yet though. What I can say is that one of my lifelong goals is about to take flight. Or rather, will eventually take flight. I’m already getting ahead of myself 😅

Looking back, 2019 had a little bumps. Honestly, I was torn between being my usual working-around-the-clock self and immersing myself in the role of a mum. Fast forward to eight months later, it gets better. Sleep doesn’t, but the rest does. I had to toss my schedules out the window though. Most days, I can only get things done while she sleeps.

Staying inspired was all the more difficult during the past months. Sometimes, all I wanted was for the day to be over just minutes after waking up. So, I had to get thinking of ways to avoid a downward spiral. One thing that helped hone my inspiration was (and still is) getting out of the house.

If you’re a working mum, a stay-at-home parent or a mumpreneur, difficult as it is, do take a break. You deserve it. Having a baby to take care of, plus work on top of that can take its toll. Getting out of the house might just be what you need. Even if it’s for a half-hour walk or a cup of coffee at your local café a couple of minutes away. True, you’re probably not getting things done and your never-ending list has nothing crossed off it yet. But, chances are, you’ll feel more refreshed after taking a break from it all and work twice as hard later (child-permitting).

These up here 👆 took a couple of minutes longer to get to 😋 It was our first ever trip with Beth and it went better than expected. 

Even as I write this, I’m aware that sometimes it’s not that easy. I’m a morning person and pre-motherhood used to get all the work done by midday. Getting some work done close to midnight is actually a thing now.

Ah, she woke up. After only twenty minutes.  So, to wrap this up, and all this aside, any help you can get, get it! True, I’m blessed with the most amazing people in my life. Even if you’re winging it on your own, remember you’re strong, amazing and you’re not alone 🙌💪

Amanda x

🎄 Christmas jumpers, imbuljuta tal- Qastan and the midnight mass

In the coming days, everyone around you will seem a tad more pleasant than usual. Even work will feel more tolerable when compared to the rest of the year. It’s a time when everything tends to sound and look better; especially if you’re an avid Christmas fan.

It’s one week until Christmas and, despite all that has been going on, the air is buzzing with cheer. Or perhaps it’s just me and my incessant obsession with this holiday.  On December first, we open the first tiny window of our advent calendar, overload our Spotify accounts with Christmas music, and start thinking of showering the fronts of our homes with blinking decorative lights (and sometimes even overdoing it).  All this sets the tone for the upcoming month and puts our little customs into motion.

Traditions are comforting, nice even. They’re like a familiar smell you randomly come across on a given day that takes you back to your childhood days. The nostalgic memories of Christmas past, if you will. Do you sometimes find yourself missing sitting cozily on the couch, your hands cupped around a warm mug of imbuljuta tal-Qastan your grandma just made whilst munching on some fresh out-of-the-oven mince pies on Christmas eve?

As a child, I used to spend every Christmas Eve at my grandma’s with the rest of the family. After that, we attended the Midnight mass and as children, tried hard not to snooze off in the dim lights during the extremely long sermon of the child. I loved every second of Christmas eve. Loved – because as we grew older, that little family tradition of ours dissipated.

Every family has its own traditions which inevitably change with the passage of time. Children grow up, move out, embark on their own journeys and create their own new thing. Still, change brings about the birth of new traditions which can be just as exciting.

When compared to other countries and given that no distance is great on this little island of ours, we remain close to our families and not just in physical proximity. To date, we tend to celebrate this day with our closest relatives and try to make up for lost time with friends. That is probably one of the reasons why we send out a bazillion greeting cards to everyone we have ever known in December.

Another thing that always fascinated me as a child – probably because of the Home Alone movies I used to watch – was the Christmas tree. I remembered being in awe of how grand it stood with gifts piled neatly underneath it. Back then, I also remember my mother pointing out that the Christmas tree hadn’t always been part of our tradition. Most Maltese catholic families make the crib and baby Jesus as the main centerpieces during the festive season to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas; the birth of Christ. Some would even go on to argue that no crib is complete without the decorative Gulbiena (vetches). Growing the plant in darkness was a task, that as kids, we took to heart. We checked on it every single day to the point of feeling proudly triumphant upon seeing its stringy white shoots sprouting from its watered cotton bed.

Setting up the Christmas tree, however, is now a tradition well embedded in the Maltese culture. We spend hours decorating our homes, which although sometimes we do so excessively, it still makes up for good family quality time. Something which lately, and admittedly, we seem to be lacking. It’s not the first time I’ve been to a café and sitting nearby is a family of four completely lost in four different digital worlds.

The spirit of Christmas, less the commercial hype, is associated with acts of giving, selflessness, and kindness. In this excessively consumeristic reality of ours, it would not be the first time you’d hear someone admitting that the true meaning of Christmas is lost and has now been replaced with all that is materialistic. However, and to date, for many locals, the Christmas season is not merely a frenzy period of gift shopping but rather, it’s more about being part of the communal experience. For instance, as kids, we never missed the children’s procession, singing and holding candle-lit paper lanterns as we roamed our village streets. This is something most towns and villages have been organising for years and still do.

Then on Christmas day, my family and I prepare lunch together and spend the day in each other’s company watching Christmas films and playing board games. Lunch on this day is a celebratory meal that takes time both to prepare and to eat. It usually involves a hearty three-course meal starting off with pasta or soup, turkey and roast potatoes plus a vegetable casserole (which used to be baked at the local bakery) undeniably followed by dessert, coffee, and liquour.  A couple of hours in, and tea, treacle rings, and mince pies are also served. Where food is concerned, traditions like these tend to stick around for quite a while on these islands.

It’s nice to have our own little traditions. Looking back, we reminiscence on childhood memories that we’re fond of. Looking ahead, a little change to what we’re used to doesn’t hurt either. Wearing funny Christmas jumpers, hanging Christmas stockings, exchanging gifts and indulging in Christmas inspired ginger lattes and cookies with friends and family, are seasonal traditions that make December special.

 

Featured on the Times of Malta Christmas Magazine, 2018

Here’s to new #beginnings!

The reason behind my online absence? Little Bethany 💙 She became my number one priority way before she came into this world. She is also the reason why I’m not getting any sleep. Not even a wink.

Working on my projects and taking care of Beth is a new challenge I’m diving into, head first. I cut back on some work for the first few weeks but am slowly getting back on track. It’s not like no one ever went through this before but it hits you right in the face when you’re actually experiencing it.

One thing you’re in dire need of if you’re a working mum is flexibility. I must admit that being my own boss does help. I can get work done when she sleeps, be it at four in the morning (I’d be awake anyway) or 11 at night. And perhaps also try to squeeze an hour of sleep in between. 

As an avid planner myself, I am now aware of how naive I was to think I had everything under control. Once a newborn was in my arms, I realised that planning was not going to be on the agenda any time soon. 

My clients were extremely understanding. I couldn’t have asked for a better lot ❤ I made sure to meet up with everyone before I popped. And together, we planned and scheduled most of the work. I wanted to make sure I had everything covered. And, I did. 

When my water broke, the first thing I did (after taking a shower & calling my better half), was to sit back down and tie loose ends. An hour and a half later I was in the labour ward. 

I quite like privacy and am not one to shower my social media with pictures of myself and my family. In fact, most people didn’t even realise I was pregnant. Not until after I posted a picture showing Beth’s tiny feet.

I’m also aware of the irony given my line of work. But being or becoming an ‘influencer’ has never been on my agenda. I have always been a behind-the-scenes kind of person.

Having said that, I will be sharing just a few pictures in the coming days on my IG account 👇

Follow me on Instagram

It took me forever to write this blogpost! The minute she closed her eyes, I sprinted to my laptop. Inspiration hit and I wanted to pour it all down. It feels good to be back 💙 

Amanda x

 

 

Charming #Bratislava & a quick trip to #Vienna

Christmas day, I was in bed with a fever. Two days later, I was travelling to Bratislava, Slovakia. Call me crazy but looking back, I’d do it all over again.

The outbound flight was the worst part. Have you ever been sick or even had nasal congestion on board a plane? It just gets worse. I used to work as a flight attendant with a local airline some years back, so I got used to everything on board. But ear pain is one thing that scares me to date.

For the whole duration of our mini-vacation, warm water with lemon and honey became my best friend. Thankfully, soup was on every menu; it seemed to be a hot item (an unintentional pun) in the city. So I detoxed for a couple of days with soup and Bratislavan ox-tail broth; which is extremely good even though it doesn’t sound appetizing. Not your usual holiday food where you stuff mouth with brioches and pastries at breakfast and get your hands on local sweets and chocolates every time you get. I’m a sweet tooth, so those were the things I missed the most.

BUT, the fresh air did me good. Despite the icy cold weather, I felt better each time I stepped outside. A couple of days later, I was almost as good as new (almost).

Bratislava. To be completely honest, it was never really on my travel list. But it should be on yours. Two days, I think, are all that you need. Compared to other cities, it’s small. You can easily walk around the centre.

Plus, if you’re a coffee lover, you’re in for a treat. The city is littered with quaint little cake shops and the prices are not expensive (unlike Vienna).

I also visited Devín Castle; which is less than 40 mins away by bus (Bus 28) from the city centre. It’s really easy to get there and if you appreciate history and natural beauty, it’s worth the visit.

After roaming around Bratislava for two days, we hopped on the train to Vienna. It’s just an hour away but you can spot the difference. It’s busier. The streets, the squares, the shops. Everywhere.

Usually, I do a little research before travelling somewhere. But both places being in Europe and the hectic month that was December, I didn’t have the time. For a change, it was nice to just go out and about without a care in the world. We googled the best places to visit whilst at the hotel in the evening and that was it.

Cafés in Vienna are quite the thing as well. They really do love their coffee. It’s quite the culture. They also have their own version of a cappuccino – Melange.

But alas, all the coffee shops had endless queues. Everywhere we went was packed. Visiting during peak season doesn’t help. Shamefully, the only place where we managed to find two available seats (literally just two seats) was McCafe. I hate myself for writing this and even more for going in but it was windy, raining and freezing cold. I couldn’t feel my extremities any longer, so we had to get inside, somewhere. And that, unfortunately, was the last resort.

The following day we encountered the same problem. Only this time with restaurants. But, we found, and totally by chance too, this amazingly good Hummus bar in the inner city. We had the best snack there 👌 👇

Tripadvisor: https://goo.gl/kgbuHX

Maybe that picture doesn’t give the place enough credit. You just have to take my word for it.

One of the many reasons I loved spending the last days of the year in Vienna were the markets. Having researched only a little during our stay, I came across a site stating that Christmas markets open to the public on 23 November until 26 December. What I didn’t know was that they also have New Year’s eve markets. Oh, the goodness! Sad thing though, I couldn’t try everything.

But what I did do, was enjoying a nice mug of hot chocolate in that cold weather whilst roaming around the palace. It was heavenly.

On a side note: It’s better to return the mug to the stall (they refund you for it) if you don’t want it as a keepsake. Otherwise, you’ll end up like I did, awkwardly holding a chocolate-stained mug in hand around the city, underground stations and on trains. Or else, carry a bigger bag (didn’t fit in my small one)!

Until next time, Amanda x