What is Round Table Companies, and how did you get started in the field?
RTC is a storytelling company. We work with individuals and organizations to communicate the essence of their brand and create intimate, lead-generating marketing vehicles that are connectable, memorable and repeatable.
I started in the storytelling field as a theatre major graduating with a bachelor of fine arts and then moved to Los Angeles where I worked as a starring actor in commercials for major brands like American Express, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Hasbro, Mitsubishi, Miller and others. My work won Belding, Addy and Bronze Lion awards. From there, I moved to producing and directing and then to publishing. I founded RTC in 2006, and we specialize in books, comics and film/video-based storytelling.
How can individuals in the marketing/advertising industry (i.e. agencies, CMO’s) use Round Table Companies to create either more impactful end-results or enhance in-house performance?
Our collaborative approach to developing intimate, story-based vehicles can help any brand connect emotionally with their customers while also activating their staff by celebrating how they impact the world. We use an in-depth interview process (with customers and staff) to define the essence of an organization's value and then capture it in an experience — traditionally in a high-quality book, comic, graphic novel or video production.
What is your view of where Round Table Companies currently stands in the marketplace today? Where do you see your company in three years?
We solve the connection problem. With so much broadcasting, especially in the social networking realm, knowing what to amplify and how to create experiences for customers is imperative. While many agencies utilize storytelling, we hold the niche of being a company devoted 100 percent to content creation and amplification. A tweet gets someone's attention. A commercial asks for 30 seconds. A blog asks them for three minutes. Our products request more in-depth, relationship-building attention, meaning anywhere from a few minutes to watch a film piece or an hour to read a graphic novel to two hours to view a documentary film or six hours to read a book.
As an entrepreneur, what impact has branding had on your venture’s success so far? How do you approach marketing? With whom do you collaborate to get your message out to your target audience?
Since our inception, RTC has focused on branding. As a company that has grown by word of mouth, that focus allowed our business to increase top-line revenue by 73 percent in 2012. We do so by focusing on our culture and ensuring that our staff is aligned with and living our core values: brilliance, joy, momentum, honesty, growth and community. Rather than spending big money on marketing, we spend small money on marketing and invest the bulk of our marketing budget in culture.
By activating and supporting our staff, we encourage word-of-mouth buzz that drives business to our door primarily through conversation, Facebook and Twitter. An aligned staff ensures that every touchpoint with a potential client matches our values and exceeds their expectations. We also activated our client base by hosting a client conference that allowed our clients to meet, inspire and support one another. This resulted in creating brand ambassadors out of our existing client base.
What entrepreneurial ideas and startup lessons can advertising professionals apply to creating breakthrough work?
We have a core value of brilliance that requires tremendous attention. Achieving brilliance doesn't happen through luck; it occurs through structured creativity and the talent of passionate individuals. As a director and producer in LA, I learned the value of collaboration. A director who is a dictator can only create a product that’s as good as he is. But a collaborative director can create a project exponentially greater than the talents of everyone involved.
As an entrepreneur with little cash flow in the beginning, I was forced to be an inspiring leader. By supporting my staff to bring the best they had to offer, I was protecting my clients and ensuring their results. Take care of your staff and let them take care of your clients.
Many advertising professionals find themselves interested in entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to someone with marketing skills interested in starting a new venture?
Jump and build your wings on the way down. Only when you take your biggest swings in life can you really learn what you're made of. Those lessons create your eventual value.
Thought leaders in marketing regularly reinforce the idea that agencies (and other marketing-oriented organizations, too) should collaborate with startups. Do you agree? Why? How would you like agencies to collaborate with your organization?
Startups offer passion, lower costs and niche talents. If you share enough core values with a startup and they can help you solve an existing problem at a lower cost, you both win. To protect yourself, start small, let them impress you and then grow your relationship from there. Agencies interested in developing intimate, story-based vehicles for their clients or themselves should absolutely get in touch with us. We're here to make the world a better place, full of more human connections. Let's help one another.
Working in Los Angeles for a decade, Corey Michael Blake was the face and voice behind a dozen Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 brands as a commercial and voiceover actor (his work won Belding, Addy, Cannes, and London International Advertising awards), before working as a film producer and director, as an author and publisher, and now as the founder and President of storytelling company Round Table Companies (RTC).