“Ah! I see you’re all reading my book! I hope you’re all loving it,” says Bill Coles theatrically as he walks into the room, pre-lecture. It’s my first interaction with the man, but already I can read what type of man he is: personable, easy-going and slightly eccentric.
The book he’s talking about is Red Top; his how-to guide for budding journalists and reporters alike. In the book, Coles explains about the do’s and don’ts of being a Red Top tabloid reporter and references his own extraordinary experiences within the world of Journalism.
Having written for The Scotsman, The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, and the Huffington Post, you wouldn’t go far wrong thinking Bill Coles knows a thing or two about reporting.
As a University of Bristol Theology graduate, Coles began his working life in a hotel. His mother, however, believed he was destined for far greater things. Suggesting he meet with a guidance counsellor to help inspire a new career path, it was during this meeting that Coles was awakened to his potential as a Journalist.
Cliched or not, this realisation spurred him to find a place for himself within the big, wide world of Journalism. Now, with all his industry experience, and ten books under his belt, Coles is more than willing to share trade secrets and vital tips with aspiring reporters.
When asked what he believes is the key to becoming a success in the gritty field of reporting, Coles replies simply; “Charm.”
Of course, Coles makes sure we all know that charm isn’t something we are all naturally gifted with. He says it can be learnt through simple trial and error.
“What I’m suggesting is rather like learning to drive a car — you start on the lowest level. You have to try to connect with strangers who you come into contact with. When you next buy a coffee, rather than just saying, ‘Thanks for my coffee. Goodbye,’ you could do a lot worse than saying, ‘How’s your day going so far?’ You can flick any sort of ball you like towards this stranger and you’re going to see if they want to play ball with you.”
Coles most definitely practices what he preaches; he exudes charm from every pore, and has the audience enthralled by stories about his life as a tabloid hack… and his tale of Lord Lucan and the shark’s teeth…
About 40 minutes into discussing his working life, he stops and declares he has a bag of shark’s teeth he’s wants to pass around, requesting everyone, “take as many as they want” — it’s slightly strange, but we all do as he says without question. He gets back to his lecture.
After imparting some more journalistic wisdom onto the keen listeners, Coles says he’s going to reveal the story of the shark’s teeth. He starts by referencing his work of fiction: Lord Lucan: My Story, and explains that after the Earl of Lucan came into power, he locked up his brothers in a cage for 40 years. Coles then compared this to real life; how he knows of a millionairess who does the same things day-in day-out, and concluding that it’s also a form of cage life.
He finishes by stating, “These shark’s teeth are 50 million years old. We only live for a fraction of that time. Make sure you make the most of it. If you feel you’re starting to live in cage life, get out, experience something different. Don’t succumb to the routine of life.”
And I can’t help but think that that message will stick with each and every person in the room.