How to write a creative brief

Giving good direction to writers for content marketing

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The creative brief lays the foundation for your project. It acts as a map for your writer/creative team on how to best reach the project’s goals.  You can produce creative briefs for overall marketing initiatives, advertising campaigns, just about anything that requires more than one person to be on the same page.

Today, we are going to touch base on creative briefs made specifically for writers. Think creative briefs for projects like blog posts, articles, podcasts and white papers.

First, take the time to think about what your end goal is with this project and write a creative brief that ensures both your time and the writer’s time (which they are billing you for) is not wasted.

Creative briefs can make or break whether your project is successful, so take the time to think through it and be strategic about what you write. Often times, going through the exercise of writing a creative brief can help button up your strategy and strengthen your initiatives overall.

Most creative briefs include:

  1. A brand statement (include your brand voice/tone),

  2. An overview of the project’s background and objectives,

  3. The target audience for the project,

  4. Your company’s chief competitors,

  5. Why the audience should choose your brand

    (Your brand’s value and market positioning),

  6. Communication channels that the project will run on,

  7. Whether or not you offer a value add, and what it will be, and

  8. A call to action.

Click here for a simple creative brief template in Google Docs.

Here are more details on each element of the creative brief:

1. A brand/mission statement

This is a one to two sentence summary of the aims and values of your organization. Include your brand’s voice/tone, so the writer can mirror it. The tone will shape the style of writing while the voice will determine what words the writer uses.

Examples of great mission statements: LinkedIn: “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Twitter: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

2. A brief overview of the project’s background and objectives

What is your objective with this project? What do you expect to gain out of it? Is it to generate more leads via SEO? Is it to sell more product via affiliate links? Objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Is this project one piece of a larger marketing initiative? How will these pieces complement one another?

3. The target audience for the project

The simplest way to define your target audience:

Demographic (gender, age, geographic location)
What pain points do they struggle with?
What is their income?
Do they have children?
Are they married?
What career paths have they traveled?

You can literally answer these questions in only a few short sentences. Some require a simple yes or no answer.

But, if you really want to hit a home run with your campaigns, creating a buyer persona is key. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your most ideal customer. Most times, it’s best to create two to three personas.

By providing a writer with a buyer persona as part of the creative brief, you are answering the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience? (outline above)

  • What pain points does the audience struggle with?

  • Where is the audience from?

  • What is holding the audience back from making a purchase?

  • What is the average income of the audience?

  • What goals are pushing the audience to make a purchase?

4. Your company’s chief competitors

Who are you competing with for market share/reader eyeballs? A good writer will take the information you give them and do a little research on each of your competitors. What do they have/do that you don’t? Do they blog more frequently? Are they better at working with SEO? Are they on more accurate social channels for their audiences?

If you have this information, share it.

5. Why should the audience choose your brand?

(Your brand’s value and market positioning)

One of the most important parts to include in the creative brief is why the customer should choose your brand over your competitors. That is why we ask you to outline your chief competitors above.

What perceptions of your brand may the audience already have? What do you offer differently than your competitors? If you don’t have a strong brand image, what image would you like to build?

6. Communication channels that the project will run on

Writing for a white paper is a lot different than writing for a social channel. What the audience is looking for and the amount of time they will spend on your piece varies depending on your channel. So, give your writer a heads up.

Does the piece need to be research heavy? Does it need to be shorter than 800 words?

7. Are you offering a value add? If so, what is it?

A writer should also know whether or not you provide any type of value ad to your audience. Is there a newsletter they can sign up for? A free e-book they can download? Consumers love free stuff, especially if it’s packed with valuable information that simplifies the purchasing decision or makes their lives easier.

Although the sole focus of the writing project may not have anything to do with the value ad you offer, a writer can still strategically integrate it into the piece without it overshadowing the primary objective the content.

8. Call-to-action

Writers need to know what the primary goal of the content piece is. If you don’t share the objective, then it becomes nearly impossible for the writer to craft an engaging call to action (CTA).

A lot of brands think the CTA should always be at the end of the content piece. But what if the audience doesn’t finish the entire article? A smart writer will study your intended CTA and incorporate it various times throughout the content to ensure the audience is provided with multiple opportunities to follow it.

The true value of a creative brief should never be overlooked. A writer worth partnering with will always ask for one, and may even provide you with their own outline so you can simply fill in your answers. If you don’t know the answers, a great writer will help you study your audience and objective. Once you have a detailed creative brief, you can often use it from one content project to the next by making simple tweaks.

Need a template? Click here for a simple creative brief template in Google Docs.

How to write like Winston Churchill


How to write like Winston Churchill

Author: Bob Girolamo

Most people respect Winston Churchill as a politician and orator. Not as many acknowledge what a successful writer he was.

Even if Churchill never led a country through war, he would still be remembered as a prolific author. As his primary source of income, we could see writing as his main profession. During his lifetime he published 44 books, over one thousand articles and millions of words of speeches. He even received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

While his work would be valuable reading for anybody, it is the hows and whys of his writing that offers the best lessons for writers and content marketers. Let’s take a look at his writing habits and strategies to help modern writers - from journalists to beginner bloggers - create a body of work as extensive and successful as the British Bulldog’s.

Daily writing routine

In The Last Lion, one of the researchers who assisted Winston in writing his books recalled:

“He was totally organized, almost like a clock. His routine was absolutely dictatorial. He set himself a ruthless timetable every day and would get very agitated, even cross, if it was broken.”

  • His strict routine usually looked something like this:

  • Wake at 8am and get ready

  • Get back in bed and read newspapers for two hours Answer mail and greet visitors

  • Work on his writing until lunch at 1:15pm

  • Spend a half hour in solitary reflection after lunch

  • Take time for his hobbies such as paint, read or listening to music until 3pm

  • Take a two hour nap Spend time with his family and have a long dinner with friends and guests

  • Start his second working shift from 11pm until bed at 2-3am

When you take in the whole schedule, it doesn’t sound like a bad day. It even seems leisurely. A two hour nap? Sold! But when you break it down, Churchill worked more than most. He worked on his own terms. Here are some key takeaways:

Find the time you work best.

Churchill designed his schedule so when he did work, he was at his peak level of focus and productivity. He found that he was only able to write for 2-3 hours at a time. His daily nap allowed him to recharge so he was able to get two work sessions in a day.

In terms of his nightly working shift, “before the night is out, he will have dictated between four thousand and five thousand words. On weekends he may exceed ten thousand words.”

Whether it is possible to break up your day like this or not, you should look for ways to schedule your day to maximize work energy. If you know you aren’t as productive after lunch, schedule your writing for the morning. Leave your emails, meetings and administrative work for the afternoon. When you do work, make sure it is intense, focused work.

Make time for creative hobbies.

According to Churchill, “A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it…the tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened, not merely by rest, but by using other parts...The cultivation of a hobby and new forms of interest is therefore a policy of first importance to a public man…To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.”

For this reason, he made time for hobbies which included painting, reading, landscaping, card games, and even bricklaying.

Recent research validates this part of his process. Researchers from San Francisco State University found having creative interests outside of work was linked to experiencing mastery, control, relaxation and an increase in positive work performance related outcomes.

Churchill’s writing tips

Churchill focused on quality over quantity of his writing and the writing of those he worked with. His attempts to impart some of his writing lessons on his war cabinet while he was Prime Minister offer good writing tips for anyone.

Keep writing brief and essential

In 1940, Winston Churchill sent a memo to his war cabinet stating “To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.” Churchill advises, “I ask my colleagues and their staff to see to it that their reports are shorter,” and “the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking."

Use dual readership paths

While everyone wants their audience to appreciate their long, flowing prose and carefully concocted paragraphs, the truth is that a percent of your readership is merely going to scan your writing. This is why you need to make your writing easy to scan.

In the same memo, Churchill recommends using “short, crisp paragraphs” and in some situations offering headings only. Make sure it is easy for busy Heads of State to scan your writing by formatting it with headings, bullets, lists and emphasis that brings out the main points.

Aim for simplicity and readability

Not only should your writing be brief, it should also be as simple as possible. Churchill warns against “woolly phrases [that are] mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word.”

Have clear content goals

It may seem that a Prime Minister who authored books such as Painting as a Pastime and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples wrote about whatever happened to interest him. This was far from the truth.

His speeches, such as “fight on the beaches” and “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” were what made him such a powerful politician and gave him the ability to rouse and inspire his nation, especially during war-time.

Many of the articles he published served to grow his audience and guide policy. After World War I, he lost favor in the British government and retired from politics from 1931-1939. During this time he published two volumes and more than 400 articles. When he finally returned to the political arena he became the Prime Minister in less than a year.

Make sure the content you create has clear goals and is part of an overarching strategy. Not only will this improve its readership, it will help you see success in the metrics that matter most to you.

There are many lessons writers and content marketers can take from Winston Churchill to improve our writing. What are your favorite lessons?

I’ll leave you with the most important thing I’ve learned from him - to simple love writing:

“Writing a long and substantial book is like having a friend and companion at your side, to whom you can always turn for comfort and amusement, and whose society becomes more attractive as a new and widening field of interest is lighted in your mind.” - Winston Churchill

Keep brief and essential with Sorc'd

How to Research Like a Journalist


How to Research Like a Journalist

Author: Bob Girolamo

The content sphere is in flux; constantly changing. Whether you’re in marketing, writing for a company, or writing articles about specific topics as educational resources, keyword research isn’t the only type of research you’ll need to conduct. Though a focus on search has an important place in modern content creation, research that incorporates multiple credible sources is what will really set your pieces apart from the competition.If research isn’t already part of your process, it’s time for a reality check. Here’s what you need to know to get started:

Research that is timely

If you are writing a press release, blog post, or article that relates to a recent event your research should incorporate information that was posted within a reasonable timeframe. Different industries and topics dictate different terms for what constitutes “timeliness”, but consider a field like SEO—something that was relevant event a year ago may no longer be relevant.

Some of the most up-to-date sources of information include recent results on Google News, Twitter and RSS feeds to trade-specific publications such as IndustryWeek, AdAge, and Thomson Reuters. Of course, when it comes to “sources” such as Twitter, additional sources may be necessary to validate information. Creating industry-specific alerts and staying on top of timely resources will unveil information as it is made public. Being the first to report on news of interest within your industry can be considered an advantage when it comes to building thought leadership.

Exclusive journalism

Being a great researcher means first identifying primary sources to refer back to. With this in mind, create a list of trade-specific publications in your subject area.

Subscribe to email updates so that you’ll have a bird’s eye view of what’s new and interesting. Online publications that post a large quantity of news send daily digests for easy skimming. If you’re looking for even more timely news, refer once again to Twitter.

Create a list of your favorite publications, and search their followers to find the handles of their journalists. Add these individuals to your Twitter list for of-the-moment news updates. Many of these journalists make it easy to get in touch via email, sharing theirs in their Twitter bio. You can use this information to get in touch if you’d like to learn more about a story, but be judicious—most journalists don’t have time to field endless questions from readers.

Making use of materials that aren’t time sensitive

If you want information on a company’s most recent developments, it may be as simple as conducting a Google search with the terms, “[Name of Business] Press Release” or “[Name of Business] PR”. Besides a company’s own efforts to publicize their latest and greatest feats, there are many publications devoted to aggregating press releases that you could search for more information (such as Business Wire). Press releases are written in a professional language and are neutral of public opinion, which can be helpful for your research.

Using niche search engines such as Google Scholar or PubMed can help you access materials not available to the general public. The Library of Congress also has a free online database that’s easy to navigate. While you’re at it, don’t forget about your local library, which provides free access (when you sign up for a library card) to dozens of informational databases. At any rate, when using materials taken from scholarly publications, it is important to remember that these materials are not subject to frequent updates. You will have to judge for yourself whether a study from the early 2000s is still relevant for whatever topic you’re writing about.

Handling biases

Your topic is best served if you attack it from many angles. For example, don’t just source information from the New York Times: go to CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, and Bloomberg. Read their official publications, the press releases companies released to the news giants, and possibly even their social media posts. Attempt to contact the journalists themselves with your questions for more credibility, if necessary.

If you’re not finding enough diversity with national publications, consider local papers and local papers’ social media handles. Go to conventions that are popular with the brand you’re studying. Go to their competitor’s blogs for other ideas.

No matter how you go about it, try to view your subject from many different lenses.

Alternative search engines

Google may be the mainstream, go-to search engine, but the web has many estuaries in its content river. If you follow some of these less traveled paths, it will lead you to the under-represented hovels the internet hides its gold in.

Some alternative search engines are owned by Google-like Blink. Others are owned by different companies, like Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Dogpile. Some are private deep web projects like Tor Browser (which is free to download and helps you to search the .onion level of the internet). Some of these are highly intelligent and will deeply analyze your query for you to save you some of the time in shaping your query. Another option, Wolfram Alpha’s search engine, allows you to enter in the name of a company and it will spit back its sector, latest stock trade price, and executives names—along with a brief bio. Find at least one other search engine that you like and weigh the differences in your research results. Queries from various sources form a well-rounded view and provide backlink material that others aren’t necessarily vying for.

Final thoughts:

Research at any level must be comprehensive to be valuable. Don’t fill your writing with filler that takes away from the experience of your human reader.

By being purposeful in your research, you’ll be a better content marketer overall.

Give Sorc'd a try for better research

How to Get Clients That Are a Good Fit for You


How to get clients that are a good fit for you

Carving out a career as a freelance writer can be liberating, exciting, and affirming. It can also be frustrating and at times, terrifying. No one else is in charge of making sure you get paid, and a regular salary is not a given. In the early stages of your freelance career, you’re hungry for work, and it can be tempting to take on any project that comes your way. Due to the ubiquitous work-related advice that everyone needs to “do their time” before ascending the ranks, you might be blind to how this attitude can actually hurt you.

One thing to keep in mind is that people often find a freelancer, and then stick with them, no matter what company they are at. As your clients start to move around, you will actually grow your business, so make sure they are someone you want to work with.

Don’t waste your time on figuring out how to get clients who aren’t right for you. It may be hurting you in more places than just your pocketbook. Especially because:

You’re less likely to get the work anyway.

If you do some research on a potential client and don’t feel strongly that you’re a good match for their needs, subject, style, and values--stop right there. Even if you get the job, it will be a burden on you to deliver a product the client can actually be happy with. Let a better fit take on this job for good karma points.

The work is a dead end.

Money is not the only thing you should takeaway from a good client relationship. When you work for someone who isn’t a great match, the experience is less likely to provide you with meaningful professional growth, a body of work that will strengthen your portfolio, or connections that will advance your career.

You’ll never get the time back.

The time that you spend researching prospective clients, writing cover letters, compiling writing samples, and interviewing for a job is time you will never get back, so don’t waste it. Spend time on these activities solely in pursuit of great clients.

It’s taking time and energy from better leads.

You could send out ten or fifteen okay pitches and maybe hear back about one. Or, you could spend the same amount of time sending out five great, focused pitches for jobs that you really want where you know you’d be a great fit. Quality certainly is not equal to quantity, so don’t confuse a barrage of pitches with true freelancer productivity.

Ok, it’s not hard to see the benefits associated with saving your time exclusively to pursue your ideal clients, and ignoring opportunities that aren’t a good fit. But though it may be easy to identify imperfect prospects, it may be more difficult to recognize the perfect client.

Take charge: Create a client avatar

Creating a client avatar is a way for any freelancer to narrow their focus and refine their efforts.

Think of your client avatar as a fictional business that represents your ideals. This is not dissimilar from a marketing persona, which identifies fictional but detailed descriptions of an ideal client. When developing your client avatar, feel free to write about them in a story format. The following questions can help develop your idea more completely:

- Do you want a client who provides ongoing work, or do you prefer one-off projects? - Would you rather work for a company that routinely hires writers and has detailed process and expectations in place, or would you be more excited to jump in on the ground floor of a new company? - What industries and subjects do you want to write about? - Do you want to write under your own byline, or would you prefer to make more money as an anonymous ghostwriter? - Does your ideal client expect to be in touch with you daily, weekly, or only when necessary? - Is your ideal client invested in developing your skills, or content to maintain a comfortable status quo with a hands-off approach?

The purpose of the exercise is to clarify what you want from your work as well as the types of clients that can provide that and how to identify them. Working on your client avatar is only productive if it helps guide you in the right direction, so don’t waste time on vague descriptors.

The point is not to search the world of freelance writing for a real-life copy of the avatar you came up with, but to use this mental approximation to guide your search. When you look at the website or LinkedIn profile of a potential client do you see the avatar’s general values and characteristics reflected, or does it seem utterly foreign?

Big picture considerations like what you’ll be writing about and the type of company or client you’re working for are easily identified. Other features may become clear in the initial application and interview process, while some will be a mystery until you’re already working for your new client. At every stage, your client avatar is a metric for judging how invested you should be in a prospective or current client.

How to get clients you won’t get tired of

If you feel stuck in a rut with your freelance work, take some time to create a client avatar, or check in with the one you have already. Ask yourself:

- Is it really your perfect client? - How do your actual clients stack up? - Most importantly, do you keep that avatar and all that it represents in the back of your mind when you look for work?

Creating and sticking with a client avatar customized to your preferences will help you to find the work that works for you.

What are your best tips for how to get clients that you won’t get tired of? Tweet @Sorc’d with your thoughts, and we’ll share our favorites!

Tips for writing: Five (5) Ways to make sure your article stands out


Tips for Writers

Imagine you were searching the internet for something specific, you find a few links related to your search, but none of them really helped you. In fact, each link you click on is basically the same information you just read, but in different words. When you’re creating content, it’s important to write in such a way that will solve a problem. People scour the internet all day long looking for information, and the last thing they want to find is surface-level information. So, how can you differentiate yourself among several other writers? How can you provide solid content that readers will appreciate? The following are five areas to remember each time you write content.

1. Start with a compelling headline

A headline is important to tell a reader what type of information they can expect. Headlines that are more appealing and compelling will receive more traction than others. For example, let’s say a reader is trying to search the internet for tips on marketing. In the search engine, they see an article with a headline “Improve Your Marketing Skills,” and another is “10 Tips to Skyrocket Your Marketing Strategy” – Which one do you think they will choose? They will likely choose the “10 Tips” because right away they know the article is going to benefit them in 10 different ways. The other headline is okay to use, but it may not receive as much traction, compared to a well thought out headline.

2. Get to know your audience

Before you write any type of content, you need to make sure you understand the audience. Think about the message the company is trying to send. Based on the business, is the audience more laid-back and will appreciate the slight humor in the content. Maybe the audience is completely professional, and only a serious tone would work. It’s important to know what will drive your audience to keep reading your content. Although humor works for some businesses, it’s not meant for all, and it could jeopardize the size of your audience.

3. Use original ideas

Search engines are filled with similar content. A reader looking for an article is not going to benefit from reading the last ten articles she found that are the same. When writing content, make sure you provide original ideas. Successful content comes from developing creative, original, and solid angles. Do more research if you must, so you can dig deeper than previous writers.

4. Narrow your topic

Narrowing down your topic is beneficial to your readers. A reader is going to want content on a particular matter. For example, if your content involves marketing, narrow your topic down to one type of marketing. For example, instead of writing about “Comprehensive Marketing,” you could write about “Email Marketing: How to Get Started.” The second title shows the article won’t just be about marketing or just about email marketing, but it narrows it down to “How to Get Started.” By narrowing your content down, readers will be able to find what they’re looking for faster.

5. Can your content help?

Before publishing your content, make sure to ask yourself if the article you just wrote can help. Does it solve a problem? You can write any headline you want, but does the body of the content resemble the headline? It’s important to make sure that while you’re writing the content, you figure out what type of problem your reader will have and what will lead them to click on your article. Next, you’ll want to ensure that you help them solve the problem. After all, that’s why they’re reading your content.

By following the above tips, you will notice more traction on your content. Go beyond the typical surface-level content and develop content that your readers can use. Don’t waste your readers’ time; make your content stand out by offering them the help they need.

Good Content Marketing: Delivering Well-Researched and Well-Written Content

Good Content Marketing: Delivering Well-Researched and Well-Written Content

One of the toughest parts about being a content writer at a marketing agency is juggling the demands of all the clients. Here at Brafton, I could be personally writing for many different clients at once, and editing the copy for many others too. All told, I could be involved with the copy for dozens of different businesses at one time. Considering that each and every client has particular needs for their content and they all address a different audience, this can be a lot to think about and handle at any given moment.

How to become a freelance writer: 4 easy steps to getting started


Four easy steps to getting started as a freelance writer

Emily Vanda

I jumped into the world of full-time freelance writing because I wanted to pursue my passion - writing, and find out if I could make it financially feasible. I’ve dabbled in all types of writing, but nothing could quite prepare me for sending that first pitch, landing my first client, and negotiating a fair rate. How do you go from no published clips to having an article in a national magazine? How do you go from writing for fun or just a hobby to making it a habit? How do you sell yourself and your writing like a product? Well, here are just a few important things to consider before you send that first pitch.

Find Your Niche

I thought I was a versatile writer. And to a certain extent flexibility and versatility will go far in the freelance world. But if you don’t nail down a few topics or industries that you would be happy to write about for the rest of your life, sending those first pitches is going to be much more time consuming than it needs to be. Here’s a great exercise that helped me. Get a pen and paper, or open your word processor and write down 25-50 articles you could type up immediately with little research or hassle. When I did this, I realized I was most comfortable writing about coffee, freelance writing, and travel with a local flair. Focusing on what came naturally to me landed me a project with a national coffee magazine right away.

Get a Space

I cannot stress enough the importance of making a space for yourself. You don’t need anything extravagant. As much as a seaside villa with a mahogany writing desk sounds appealing, a desk and chair in your one room apartment or your house is all you need. It’s just helps instill the idea that this is something you are taking time and space for.

Don’t Underestimate Your Writing Samples

When I started, I had zero published clips. Imagine how depressing it was when every freelance gig included the caveat, “Send 2-3 clips.” I did, however, have a travel blog that I started to share my experiences and pictures with friends and family. Technically those were published online, just not through a third party or recognized website or magazine. But at least I had something to attach to my intro cover letters and resume. Chances are, if you want to pursue writing, you’ve done some writing and have something you could send along as a sample piece to give a feel for your style and voice.

Reboot That Resume

My resume was immaculate, that is, it worked for the world of the 9-5. I had the format nailed and was able to highlight my skills. But, a writing resume is a little different. It’s not about job experience, it’s about your writing know how. Which on paper, with my nearly zero published clips, was less than glowing. I had to figure out how to translate “years of writing and editing experience” to an actual writing resume. Potential clients want to know if you have the chops to do the job and even if you may not have a million published novels and articles, you probably have the chops. Check out other writing resumes and take a long look back at all your experience. For your first resume, you may have to get a little creative. Here are some resume templates for writers to get you started.

Just like any job, getting into the groove and gaining success is going to take time. But the key difference between getting a paid client within a month versus six months, is making sure you are fully prepared. Instead of blindly crawling around the internet hoping, with fingers crossed, for someone to take a chance on you, these are a few ways to amp up your credibility and get into the game quicker.

Do something you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.

Resume Templates for Writers: Google Docs & Microsoft Word


Whether you are a freelancer writer, business and corporate writer or bloggers, getting to write about what you are interested in or what you love can be a game changer. Find the job that's right for you using one of our easy to build resume templates: Google Docs Resume Template: for Writers Microsoft Word Resume Template: for Writers

How to Write A Killer Opening: Clever Ways To Entice Readers


How to Write A Killer Opening:Clever Ways To Entice Readers

Bob Girolamo

Words are more than just a means of communication, they are a way of enchanting readers with your ideas, perspective or product. However, attracting your audience depends critically on your opening sentence.

How can you tap the magic of language to mesmerize people from the outset? Here are 3 tips that will help you craft dazzling introductory lines.

Use Humor

Words are more than just a means of communication, they are a way of enchanting readers with your ideas, perspective or product. However, attracting your audience depends critically on your opening sentence.

How can you tap the magic of language to mesmerize people from the outset? Here are 3 tips that will help you craft dazzling introductory lines.People love to laugh and humor is one of the most dependable ways to interest readers. So, employing a deft comedic touch is a great technique to add to your writing go-tos. For example, you could say something like:

“I’ve always found that politics is more entertaining than professional wrestling, even if it’s not quite as sportsmanlike.”

A chuckle-inducing opening is a terrific way you can signal that you have a quirky, interesting, and entertaining point of view. In particular, look for clever plays on words, unexpected analogies -- like an implied comparison between politics and professional wrestling -- or a tongue-in-cheek attitude, which can put a smile on readers’ faces.

Famous examples of using humor in an opening line:

"In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." (From The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams).

"Nick Naylor had been called many things since becoming the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, but until now no one had actually compared him to Satan." (From Thank You for Not Smoking by Christopher Buckley).

Harness the power of figurative language

To paraphrase Voltaire, poetry says more than prose, but in fewer words. That’s because metaphor -- the lifeblood of verse and balladry -- is saturated with energy and loaded with meaning. For example, you could say something like:

“Metaphor is the use of language to pack a punch. So, if you want to knockout readers from the opening bell, then lead with a powerful figure of speech.”

Figurative language zeros in on a hidden connection between seemingly unrelated ideas, but it also taps the right brain’s associative network. As a result, good metaphors have pinpoint accuracy, but they also expand our imaginations. You might say, that’s a powerful, one-two combination.

Famous example of using figurative language in an opening line:

“Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.” (From Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston).

Utilize imagery

Of course, metaphor and imagery are inextricably linked. However, it is worth calling attention to the inherent power of imagistic language.

Used cleverly, words are symbols that create visuals impressions in our mind. Picturesque language entices the reader because imagery nourishes our cognitive faculties on a deep level. For example, you could say something like:

“A good opening line is an appetizer that leaves readers ravenous for more.”

Look for words that paint pictures on the canvas of thought and you will tap a powerful dimension of language.

Famous example of using imagery in an opening line:

“The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods.” (From Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis).


Conjuring a killer opening line is as much an art as it is a science. Invariably, it takes effort because you have to expend mental energy to create something exciting and new.

Exposing yourself to exceptional introductory sentences is one of the best ways to start generating your own. Think about some of the patterns that outstanding writers use to hook readers. Here are a few additional opening motifs:

● Raise an interesting question and promising to answer it later on. ● Provide a very intriguing fact that stimulates the reader’s curiosity to learn more. ● Surprise readers by introducing something incongruous or unexpected.

Look for example types that grab you. Then you can use your favorites as templates. For example, once you settle on an essential pattern, then you can use them as a starting point for your own creativity.

Be original and captivate your audience with playful, witty and slightly unpredictable writing, and you’ll keep them engaged.

Complex Science Writing Made Simple


From a User's Prospective:Scientific Writer shares advice

Author: Alexander Carchidi

I view the challenges of science writing as twofold: building personal understanding about the scientific topic, and succinctly passing on that understanding. Trying to explain a scientific topic to the public can quickly spiral out of control due to the amount of background context that must be built from scratch.

These two core challenges assume that the author knows enough background about the scientific topic that they’re trying to write about to successfully educate someone else — but every writer and every scientist has found themselves in the position of needing to write about something they aren’t yet knowledgeable about.

The solution to not knowing enough about a scientific topic is to perform even more research. The chances of correctly understanding and then correctly describing brand new information will be sketchy without a way to organize the new information coming in. Keeping track of information, sources, and how the source was accessed rapidly becomes a major battle. Preparing a simple Word document with snippets of information drains a lot of time: each new source must be linked along with its relevant quotations, requiring an abundance of copying, pasting, and switching windows. Some of these efforts may be replicated later when actually writing.

Each flip back and forth between separate software elements is an event boundary — a psychological transition which increases the chance of losing track of what you’re doing. Many articles will require dozens of different sources to be paraphrased or quoted. Each source must be referenced correctly, leading to hours of time lost fumbling with the transfer of information. The incentive to incorporate fewer sources in order to avoid the hassle of manipulating their information is quite strong.

Using fewer sources is a surefire way to produce weak science writing, however. In my experience, many scientists and writers have resigned themselves to performing hours of tedious research documentation. It doesn’t have to be that way.

SORC’D has a few advantages over similar research tools for scientific writing. The largest advantage is simplicity and ease of use. Research is a fluid process, and disruptions break the flow of investigation, causing unfollowed leads. SORC’D allows for extremely rapid snipping which doesn’t disrupt concentration.

I frequently spy a tidbit in a paper that I want to come back to. Before SORC’D, I’d grab the hyperlink to the entire paper — even if most of it wasn’t relevant — and paste it into a document filled with other such links. Cue time to write, and of course it’s a struggle to hunt down the exact piece that was useful in the morass of tables, figures, and text. With SORC’D, this problem has become extinct — I simply grab, tag, and move on. I know it’ll be waiting for me with the link to the rest of the article too, should I need it.

The other major advantage of SORC’D is a simple (notice how I keep coming back to simple?) organization system for your data: tagging. Sure, other systems have tagging. If you’re stuck in the stone age, you can break up individual projects into separate files to avoid getting them confused — but SORC’D lets you combine the harvesting and organizing of information.

I frequently write articles about topics within immunology, and struggle to retain the contents of research that I glossed over while hunting for other information. Now, it’s tagged based off the topic. When I sit down to write about a very narrow topic within immunology, I have all my previous research at my fingertips. Information is not only more organized, but easier to process into an understanding that is broader than the needs of today.

It’s hard to overstate how much my workflow has changed with SORC’D. Now, I err on the side of capturing information wherever my research takes me. My worries of losing focus due to complicated data recording, citation, and transfer are a thing of the past.

Streamlining my research process has led to faster and deeper understanding of the material. Rather than flicking between a dozen different browser tabs or Word documents, information that I’m interested in writing about is at my fingertips. If I want to quote directly, SORC’D is integrated with Google Docs, so it’s as simple as pushing a button. Using SORC’D is like having a second prosthetic short-term memory that I can use in addition to my own—a colossal benefit to say the least.

Science writing is a rat's nest of chasing down sources, integrating information, and attempting to explain data to an audience that may not understand the context. Using SORC'd makes the hardest step of science writing — research gathering — vastly more manageable than before.

How to Avoid Writing What Every Other Blogger Is


How to be a unique blogger

Author: Clair BelmonteWhether you’re a freelance writer driven by a brilliant idea or a company eager to get skin in the content marketing game, starting a blog can be daunting. Once inspiration strikes, it’s natural to research your competition, and the realization that your topic has already been covered by other bloggers might be enough to send you back to square one. Although there may be other prominent voices in your industry, creating your own well-researched and engaging content can help you break through the noise and gain a following, even in a seemingly saturated market. The key to attracting your ideal audience is innovation. Content marketing focuses on bringing value to your customer, so whether you create a colorful infographic, a detailed how-to guide, or an article of industry tips, the goal is primarily to attract readers who find your content (and your company) interesting and informative. By crafting your blog with a human-centric approach and keeping your audience at the forefront, you can write about the topics most relevant to your audience, stay up to date on industry happenings, and attract potential customers online.

Here are a few tips on how to find blogging ideas.

Create a Mindmap If coming up with blog topics seems overwhelming, that may be because you’re looking at your topic too broadly. Take a step back during your brainstorming session and start with what inspired you to begin your blog. Narrow this idea down to one word and write it in the middle of a piece of paper. Many of you may remember mindmapping from grade school, but this elementary trick can be just what you need to get the ideas rolling.

Once the initial word is on the page, start by reframing your question. Instead of asking “What should I blog about,” ask instead, “what questions do our customers typically ask” or “what were my initial questions when I started this hobby?” If you’re brainstorming with a team, work together to create word associations branching off the first word that begin to answer this question, then continue to branch off the subsequent ideas. Your first few thoughts may seem obvious, and that’s okay; the real meat of the exercise comes when you start making unexpected connections further from the center.

By getting all your ideas on paper without censoring yourself or your team, you can start to tap into the juicy topics that will keep your audience reading.

Read Press Releases Publicists in all industries are eager to get press releases in front of new audiences, so take advantage to stay updated on topics relevant to your blog. Find companies or thought leaders in your industry and reach out to their publicist on LinkedIn; since it’s a publicist’s job to spread the word on new products and updates, many are willing to add you to their email distribution list. Regularly receiving updates on your industry can help you connect the dots between your expertise and something interesting happening in the market, allowing you to be ahead of the game on a recent story.

If you’re not interested in any specific companies, scour websites like or to gather new ideas. These are sites that publicists use to distribute press releases, so they are ripe with new information about your industry. On PRNewswire, you can sign up as a blogger or journalist, where you can choose your industry of interest to receive emails with new press releases along with relevant images and source information. While you may have to wade through a lot of irrelevant press releases to find the best topics for your blog, these sites are a consistent and ever-changing source of inspiration.

Leverage Social Media Stay ahead of breaking news by searching social media for inspiration. Follow industry experts and trendy up-and-comers on Twitter and Instagram to get the first scoop on your industry. Particularly if one of your target audiences is millennials, using social media to generate blog post ideas shows that you are informed and trustworthy.

Search for hashtags or keywords relevant to your industry and look for questions from the community on Twitter, as well as sites like reddit or Quora. This simple search can offer immense insight into what intrigues or confuses your ideal readers, and many of those questions can be turned into informative blog posts. Jump on these opportunities to provide the answers for questions like “What backpack is best for my budget” by looking not just at the question, but at the inquirer as well, and tailoring the answers to fit the searcher’s intent.

Content marketing is a great way to differentiate yourself and become a thought leader in your industry, but all thought leaders have to start out somewhere. Use these tips to help engage your audience in your first post and beyond.

Sorc'd featured in Forbes


A digital highlighter that allowed people to save the most important pieces of their everyday reads, then they could save a lot of time not re-searching through articles and emails they had already read...Emily and Bob were determined to make Sorc’d a successful solution with practical purposes that people could actually use on a daily basis. Read entire article on

Office 365 App Builder Profile: Sorc'd

Sorc’d Makes the Researching and Writing Process Smoother with Cloud-Based Content Curator That's Integrated with Office 365 for Easier Collaboration

Highlight and organize snippets of information you find relevant directly from within your browser. Combat the wasted hours professionals spend every week searching and gathering information. Save only the important pieces with automatic linkbacks to the original source. Say goodbye to bookmarking, and copying and pasting forever.

Recall snippets you've found or discover new ones from others within the cloud-based repository of invaluable information. Small snippets are universally accessible and easily digestible, providing the perfect solution to the majority of professionals who say their quality of work suffers because they can’t sort information fast enough.

Cite and source snippets with a single click directly within Office 365. Choose to have original source URLs built in or after snippets you import. Re-researching will be a thing of the past once you install the Office Add-in that features all the same functionality as your Sorc'd account. Finding and using supportive evidence is easy.

Export snippets of material from within Office 365 documents to add to your repository of invaluable information. Keep track of where all the relevant information is located on your shared server. Find out why 76 percent of executives believe that information is the most important asset of their companies.

Customer Reviews of Sorc'd

“In any business, time is money, and I was losing both to inefficient information storage and recollection…Sorc’d is a total lifesaver for an agency writer like myself.” – Matthew Kaplan, Senior Content Manager at Brafton Inc.“Sorc'd gives our joint users the tools they need to be as productive as possible with seamless integration into Microsoft Office products."- Rob Howard, director, Office 365 Ecosystem, Microsoft“Without too many bells and whistles, Sorc’d has all of the highly intuitive tools that are designed with the end goal in mind – to build stronger content, faster.” – Peter Herrnreiter, VP, Digital Marketing & Measurement, Imagination

CASE STUDY: Rise Interactive builds more effective pitches faster


CASE STUDY: Rise Interactive

Build more effective pitches faster using knowledge base of relevant information that caters to clients

“Well-trained professionals know that keeping up on industry trends and news is a must. Sorc'd makes it easy to collect snippets of information you find interesting, and builds a shared repository for teams that seamlessly integrates into their content with a single click.”– Bob Girolamo, Sorc'd


Award-winning digital marketing agency, Rise Interactive services many industries and verticals with unique needs. In order to address the needs of prospective clients, they cater their presentations and proposal using relevant information as supportive evidence. They needed an easy way to save and share this information with the entire team, and have access to it for use within their pitches.


Through Sorc'd solutions, Rise team members were able to easily save snippets of information they deemed noteworthy to an online, shared repository. Both private team and public snippets were accessible to the team from a Sorc'd account, and seamlessly integrated into Powerpoint, Word, and Excel documents using an add-in from the Apps Store. With a single click, team members could cite and source snippets of research from the task pane.


- Create more effective, authentic and relevant content more efficiently. - Improve information sharing across teams and disciplines with limited budget and resources.

PRESS RELEASE: The Launch of Sorc’d for Microsoft Office Forecasts Increase in Productivity for Content Creators

For Immediate Release9 a.m. PST June 7, 2016

For press inquiries: Bob Girolamo (312) 953-6060     The Launch of Sorc’d for Microsoft Office Forecasts Increase in Productivity for Content Creators

Sorc’d Takes Major Step to Becoming a Necessity For Smarter Content Creation

CHICAGO – June 7, 2016 – Sorc’d [], the cloud-based aggregator for snippets of content users have deemed noteworthy, today announced the launch of Sorc’d for Microsoft Office. This is an expansion of plans Sorc’d has to seamlessly integrate with content creation partners, augmenting existing systems to create more value for users. The add-on empowers users of Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel to search and add snippets from the Sorc’d knowledge base directly within Office documents.

“Sorc’d is about giving back precious time and mental capacity to a world that is overloaded with data, said Bob Girolamo, CEO of Sorc’d. “By providing a platform that is intuitive and easy to use, we hope users can discover more meaningful pieces of information to use as support or idea generation for original content. Add on the sharing and collaboration of the Sorc’d collective database, and you’ve got an environment where teams become smarter, thought leaders flourish, and individuals discover something new.”

“Sorc’d gives our joint users the tools they need to be as productive as possible with seamless integration into Microsoft Office products,” proclaimed Rob Howard, director, Office 365 Ecosystem, Microsoft.

Sorc’d clients boast shaving at least 30% off their research and content creation time by using the productivity tools. With over 90% of the world’s data created in the last two years, it’s no wonder that:

- 62% of professionals say their quality of work suffers because they can’t sort information fast enough,1

- professionals waste an average of 9+ hours EVERY week searching and gathering information,2 and

- Fortune 500 companies lose $30+ billion a year by failing to share knowledge.3 By making relevant snippets of content universally accessible and easily digestible, Sorc’d provides clients – such as content creation and marketing agencies, writers, journalists, marketers, and students – new cross-platform solutions for building stronger content, faster.

Unlike other ways to save information, Sorc’d is about efficiency and effectiveness. Without too many bells and whistle, all of the highly intuitive tools are designed with the end goal in mind – to build stronger content, faster. A browser extension enables users to highlight and organize only the pieces of online content they find interesting, such as in an article, blog, presentation or email. These “snippets” can be filtered by category, tag, post type, favorites or date, and link to their original sources. Recalling and importing snippets – both private and public – can be done with a single click via add-ins, like the one in Microsoft Office, or APIs. Users can choose to have the original source link built into the snippet or come after it. Users may create footnotes from links coming after the snippets with a few keyboard shortcuts.

Although Sorc’d has users from around the world, the company is focusing first on providing quality solutions to the 132 million employed in United States markets that create content, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.4  As the demands for original content increase, leveraging collective intelligence and participation from many parts of an organization will become essential - sourcing subject matter experts, thought leaders, research and other departments. Decision makers credit content marketing with driving sales (88%), customer referrals (83%), and customer loyalty (75%).5

 Sorc’d connected with Microsoft Corp. through 1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub.


About Sorc’d (pronounced sourced)

An innovation award-winner, Sorc’d empowers content creators to build stronger content, faster through a cloud-powered knowledge database of digestible snippets of relevant content, substantially decreasing research time and giving users more time to focus on what matters. Seamlessly integrating with numerous content creation systems, such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs, Sorc’d supercharges existing processes across public and private systems for content creation and marketing agencies, public relation agencies, writers, journalists, marketers, healthcare and academia. The company is based out of Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub, 1871. For more information please visit:


1."Newsroom." New Survey Reveals Extent, Impact of Information Overload on Workers; From Boston to Beijing, Professionals Feel Overwhelmed, Demoralized. Lexis Nexis, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

  1. Shechtman, Jason. "Top 3 Reasons Why We Spend So Much Time Searching for Information | Under The Radar Conference | UTRConf."Under The Radar Conference. Under The Radar, 14 May 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
  2. Quast, Lisa. "Why Knowledge Management Is Important To The Success Of Your Company." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
  3. "Occupational Employment Statistics Home Page." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
  4. "Survey: Demand for Content-marketing Expertise Outpaces Supply of Skilled Job-seekers." Survey: Demand for Content-marketing Expertise Outpaces Supply of Skilled Job-seekers. SkilledUp, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.




The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.


For more information, press only:

Bob Girolamo, Sorc’d, (312) 953-6060,


Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Sorc’d, please visit

Bloggers Meet Startups Interview with Bob Girolamo


Meet Bob Girolamo of Sorc’d

Posted on May 5, 2016 by madeline.osman

Bob Girolamo is the founder of Sorc'd, a startup in 1871. Follow Sorc'd on Twitter and learn more about the company below: 

Tell us about your project:

Sorc’d empowers content creators to build stronger content, faster. Clients boast saving 30% or more off their research and creation time by using the suite of cloud-powered tools for capturing snippets of relevant content and seamlessly integrating them into their content

Sorc’d is about efficiency and effectiveness.  All of the highly intuitive tools are designed with the end goal in mind – to build stronger content, faster. A browser extension enables users to highlight and organize only the pieces of online content they find interesting, such as in an article, blog, presentation or email. These “snippets” can be filtered by category, tag, post type, favorites or date, and link to their original sources. Recalling and importing snippets – both private and public – can be done with a single click via add-ins, like the one in Microsoft Office, Google Docs or APIs. Users can choose to have the original source link built into the snippet or come after it. Users may create footnotes from links coming after the snippets with a few keyboard shortcuts.


Chicago Entrepreneurs - Big 10 Schools with the Most Alums


CHICAGO INNO ARTICLE:These Are the Big 10 Schools With the Most Entrepreneur-Alums in Chicago A look at how Big 10 schools are impacting Chicago's startup ecosystem.

"#7: University of Iowa

Founders in Chicago: 715 Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 1,045 Local founders include: Bob Girolamo (founder of Sorc'd), Scott Weisman (cofounder of LaunchPad Labs)"