By: Chuck Frey
Corey Michael Blake is president of Round Table Companies, a firm that works closely with authors to develop graphic novels. In this interview with Michelle James, he explains how the book business is being transformed today, and the central role of creativity in all parts of the revolution.
Interview #27 in the Creativity in Business Thought Leader Series is with Corey Michael Blake.
Corey has been communicating creatively for over 15 years, first as the face and voice behind a dozen Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 brands as a commercial and voiceover actor, then as a film producer and director, as an author and publisher, and now as the founder and President of Round Table Companies, packaging and publishing business and memoir titles by new and bestselling authors, such as Chris Anderson (Wired Editor), Tony Hsieh (Zappos CEO) and Marshall Goldsmith, among others, to deliver their best-selling books as graphic novels.
Corey’s work has won Addy, Belding, Bronze Lion and London International Advertising awards and has been covered by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Wired Magazine, Barron’s, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Fox News, Bloomberg TV, and Investor’s Business Daily and my writing has been published in Writer Magazine, Script Magazine and on StartUp Nation.
Q: How does your work relate to creativity?
Blake: My company and my staff share people’s stories for a living. We do so with the written word and also with the graphic novel format. We’re actually the first company to publish an entire series of illustrated business books based on the work of best-selling authors, so we’re steeped in creativity both in the actualization of our material and also in the process we use to bring our client’s visions to life. As a past actor and filmmaker in Hollywood, I brought over the collaborative filmmaking process to book writing and publishing. So instead of forcing authors to hole up in a cave for 6 months writing their book, we surround them with an entire team of creatives that bring their message or mission to life in an experiential product. Creativity is easily one of the most emphasized core values of our team.
Q: What do you see as the new paradigm of work?
Blake: I’m seeing a massive shift in how intellectual property is monetized. Book sales have been greatly impacted by the information revolution taking place and everyone is struggling to figure out how to drive enough revenue to continue to exist. So smart business people are focusing on using intellectual property, such as books, to grow their platform, to build a real community and then they leverage their exposure to drive sales of services, merchandise, workshops, etc. The power of community is becoming so explosive that folks who get in the game thinking that book sales are the end result are completely missing the boat and often disappointed with the results.
Q: What do you see the role of creativity in that paradigm?
Blake: Creativity and innovation are the keys to standing out for a brand and growing platform. You can have great information to deliver, but if you’re not being creative with your delivery mechanism, it’s too easy to get lost. Creativity generates a legitimate emotional response, which is the catalyst for the word of mouth marketing that supports a growing platform and expands community. In the book world, publishers are actually being forced to be less creative due to budget constraints. That means less time for authors, less time for relationships, less time for the breath that is necessary to create the kind of products that stand out and demand attention. The IP industry as a whole has an opportunity to release the old paradigm and start thinking differently about the end goals and the impact creativity can have on reaching those goals.
Q: What do you see as essential for effectively navigating the new work paradigm?
Blake: Certainly, doing great work is still the greatest piece of word of mouth marketing anyone can do for their brand. But you also have to understand how to share the story behind your business, your motivation, your passion and your ability to generate results. Storytelling reaches people emotionally and in this Twitter and Facebook society, you have to reach people at the gut level if you expect them to pay attention.
Q: What is one approach people could start applying today to bring more creativity into their work or business organization?
Blake: You attract what you’re intentional about and what you put out into the world. If you want to attract more creativity, make it a core value and infuse it into your culture. A great way to start the conversation would be to use the following simple survey to generate conversation within your company around the topic of creativity and more specifically the conversation around sharing the real story behind your business:
1. Describe how our customers “experience” our business. How do they feel each step of the way? What inspires them? Where in our process do they tend to get more aggravated? Where in our process or the buying experience do they feel the most joy?
2. When we sell our company, what is the experience we’re selling (not the product or service)?
3. How does our business change lives or make life easier or better for people?
4. What gets people most excited about talking about our company?
5. What gets you out of bed to serve our clients?
6. What change within our business would inspire you?
7. What about our existing business impresses you most?
Once you’ve completed this survey and an internal dialogue about the responses, see where you can use elements from this exercise within your marketing and sales language as well as your internal documents (company handbook, HR docs, etc).
Q: Finally, what is creative leadership to you?
Blake: Creative leadership is culture based. It focuses on serving employees so they can serve customers. It focuses on collaboration and communication. If focuses on trailblazing new pathways and not being limited by conventional thought. Creative leadership focuses on growth as a result of transparency, connection, service and joy.
Corey will be presenting a hands-on, experiential session at the upcoming Creativity in Business Conference in Washington, DC on October 23, 2011.
The Creativity in Business Thought Leader Interview Series is from business creativity catalyst, Michelle James, CEO of The Center for Creative Emergence.