Robert M. Coles

Author, World Traveler, Public Speaker

Month: September 2016

How I Unintentionally Bypassed Airport Screening and Accidentally Smuggled In A Bottle of Water

I recently took a weekend trip to New York City to meet with some clients, catch up with friends, and spend some time in the city that I love so much. It was a very fast trip only putting me in the city for less than 3 days, but a great experience none-the-less. I’ve been a traveler for most of my life. My family would take trips most every summer, venturing to Wyoming for one vacation, another to Maine, and of course the beach. As an adult, my travel has grown more to mean working trips with vacation fit in on that “extra day” where the company or client has already paid your flight and you splurge on extending your hotel. One thing is for sure, in all my travels, I’ve hated going to the airport.

I am by no means a small man. I am of average height, but am a bigger guy and sometimes that can be less fun to travel by plane. You always read the blogs and posts about the people complaining about the fat guy sitting next to them. Well, I am that guy. The flight doesn’t normally bother me as much as going through airport security. I already suffer from mild claustrophobia and standing in that tube with my hands in the air while someone looks at my junk on a TV screen doesn’t necessarily make me happy, but I do it because we live in a post-9/11 America, and safety in flying is a big concern.

On Sunday, December 7th I was traveling from Newark, NJ back to Nashville, TN and walked into the airport calmly, fully expecting my security stop anxieties to begin any minute. I approached the line with boarding pass and driver’s license in hand and saw that things were quite a bit backed up.

Let me stop here for a moment and say that I have never gone through the TSA pre-screening process. I have often thought about it, but never actually done it, but will probably do it soon as travel is starting to pick up. But, it’s important for you to know right now that I’ve never done it.

I walked up to the person standing in the front of the line assigning people which pathway to take. The couple standing in front of me had just been informed that one of them could go through the TSA pre-screen line, but the other could not as he did not complete his paperwork and did not have the proper documentation. I walked up to him, he looked at me and said, “Are you traveling alone?” to which I replied, “Yes,” and he pointed for me to go through the lesser of the two lines. I thought I had struck gold. For the first time this trip traveling alone had paid off in a big way.

I walked through the line and stopped with only two people in front of me. The gentleman standing at the entrance of the security area took out a swab and whipped down the lady’s hand in front of me looking for explosive residue. It’s good to note here that she was carrying a 1 year old strapped to her back… I walked up to him and held out my hand, he motioned for me to move forward, and mumbled something to the effect of “You’re good.”

I walked up to the conveyer belt and started to take off my belt and shoes. The lady standing there said, “Sir, please do not remove anything unless asked to,” so I left everything on and placed my bags on the belt. I told her that I was traveling with 3 laptops (long story involving last minute project deadlines and failing computers) and she said that was fine and to leave them in my bag. So I laid it on the belt and walked through the metal detector. It started to beep. She did nothing. So I asked her, “Do I need to do anything?” and she replied, “No. You’re fine.”

The weirdest part was that I watched my bags go through the scanner with no one watching a screen to see what was inside.

After I got through security I opened my bag to get out my wallet and realized I had accidentally smuggled in a bottle of water. My fault for accidentally bringing it into the airport? Or the TSA’s fault for not catching what could have been a bottle full of lighter fluid? You decide.

So, that’s my story of how I didn’t go through Airport Security, right under their noses, and smuggles in a bottle of water. I expect the FBI to arrive to arrest me at any minute.

Creating Brand Identity Without Creating Brand Confusion

Developing Trust and Confidence In Your Brand

6a00e008d932ff88340163044a8d28970dIt’s a fact that people identify with brands they like. McDonalds has capitalized on this concept. Those golden arches are placed as high as regional height limits will allow them to go in the hopes that people see and recognize them and pull in for a burger. No one can dispute that they’ve made their billions off of being recognizable.

The same principle has to apply to small and medium sized businesses. A lot of people are intimidated by the successes of large companies, but they forget that they started out small and built up from there. They did that by becoming recognizable and building a positive brand identity.

I went to a conference recently with other marketing professionals (and with the story I tell, you’re going to think I should have used that word with quotation marks) and I met with a company that isn’t too far away, and they’re in a smaller market, and they have had a tough time finding success in gaining recognition. I talked to the owner for about 20 minutes and couldn’t figure out what was going on until she said this:

“I just love logos. I love to design them, so I designed five different logos for my company. I’ve got an elegant one, a fun one, colorful ones, and I put them everywhere. I have one on my Facebook, one on my Twitter, one on my websites.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. First of all, she said, ”websites” meaning more than one. She had three different websites, each with the same content, but three different logos and looks. She was building brand confusion rather than brand identity. Her customers weren’t able to find her (or trust her) because everywhere they looked they found something different.

To help build a better brand, follow these five tips and tricks to ensure your customers are able to find you and indentify with you rather than get lost in the jungle of companies offering the same services.

#1 – Pick a design and stick with it.

Let’s take the person I mentioned above as an example. She’s creating logo after logo and three different websites for her business. You can bet that her customers are getting confused about what her main focus is when they find five different designs for her company. More importantly, they’re probably doubting her abilities as a marketer. When you pick a design and stick to it, your customers get consistency.

She mentioned using a different logo for Facebook and a different logo for Twitter. Once people get a visual idea of your company they’re not going to focus so much on the words in your name. They’re going to be looking for those golden arches, so to speak. Do yourself a favor and pick one logo for all of your social media platforms. It’s going to pay off in the end.

#2 – Cross-promote, but don’t cross-confuse

A major mistake people make is over-posting materials, not posting enough materials, or posting conflicting materials. This is horrible for establishing a brand identity. If you say one thing on Facebook, but something completely different on your blog, you’re hurting your chances of becoming a trusted source of information. Consistency is key.

Another way to create confusion is to over or under-post on social media. It’s estimated that 62% of consumers check out your social media presence before making a purchase. If you aren’t posting to your social media sites daily, you aren’t posting enough. Going weeks without posting simply is not an option.

#3 – Establish a Personality

If you aren’t already spending a fair amount of your day on social media sites, it’s time to start. However, this being 2013, and with more than 1.06 billion people logging in to Facebook every month, chances are you’re familiar with the site. Still, it’s time to use your business page to establish a personality for your company.

Make it well-known the personality of your business. If you’re going for a fun vibe, post memes, jokes, and fun material to make your customers laugh. If you’re leaning more toward serious business, be sure to post scholarly, trustworthy material. Most importantly, make sure your posts are appropriate for business.

Establish trust with your clients. Everything you do is in the public eye, whether you know it or not. If you aren’t working to create a positive brand identity, all you’re doing is creating brand confusion. There’s still time to get on the right path!

End Game

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My Rambling Thoughts On The Writing Process

So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately (other than the writing that I have to do for work and the book I have coming out in February) and for the first time in a long time, I think I’m going to push a fictional novel through the pipeline. Maybe I can “accidentally” send a draft to my publisher instead of the files for my other books. I’ve never been much of a novelist, but this one seems to be flowing through quite easily.

I’ve been noticing that I fall into a certain pattern with how I actually write. I’m curious to see how things turn out, and this is probably the first project in a few years that I’ve felt very strongly about because of the message I’m trying to get across.

Essentially, the story will be quite controversial. I’m writing about the after effects of a traumatic event, but I’m focusing on people that don’t exactly cope well. It’s sort of a story based on my experiences with people I’ve met mixed with some of the conspiracy theories I just can’t resist reading about. While I am by no means a conspiracy theorist, I still find it fascinating what people will say (and post on the internet) and find that there is more than enough information out there for anyone to spin anyway they want.

Back to the point of this post, my writing process has changed greatly in the last few years. It’s gone from forcing myself to sit in front of the computer looking at the blinking cursor and wondering when something was going to hit me that was worthy of being written (especially when I’d write poetry or short stories) to more of a fluid process. I find that now I have to peel myself away from the computer because the story is flowing out of me, sometimes to0 quickly my fingers cant keep up with my thoughts.

People ask me all the time if I know what my ending will be to this current novel. There are a core group of friends that I trust enough to give the entire story to, and I always stop at a particular point, but the fact is that I don’t know. I know my characters (there are 12 characters that play a key role in the advancing of the present day plot, and 7 characters that play a key role in advancing the past plot) and I know what they want to say. They want to say everything I want to say. Everything that I would say if I was in their situation. Everything that I would want to say, and everything I couldn’t say.

The fact of the matter is that I have no clue how this story is going to end. I know the point of where the story will get close to ending, and I know ultimately the message I want to get across, but I feel it will happen when it happens. It isn’t something I’m going to be able to force. It’s something that is going to have to happen naturally.

I’m hoping to post a short section of the book on here sometime in the coming weeks. Until then, I’m interested to know about the processes other authors use when writing. Do you find that you have to force yourself to sit down and do everything at once? Do you know the outcome before you start? How do you get to know, and develop, your characters? I’d love to hear from you, so sound off below.

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