Free Thinking is Creating within Confines

I was very impressed by the sessions and workshops offered at the first Communications@Syracuse immersion that I attended at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, March 28 – 31, as part of my master’s program. Each session was interesting, relevant, and informative, yet the section titled “The Power of Branded Content, and the Key to Efficient Content Development,” presented by Melanie Deziel, founder of Story Fuel, resonated the most with me. So much so, that I believe this particular type of work, being a branded content manager/creator, may very well be the specific profession I will work on developing.

An excerpt from Melanie Deziel’s YouTube video.

I now view branded content as the happy merger of advertising, journalism, and public relations, all of the areas of study offered at Newhouse, all of which I have either work experience in, am currently studying, or have an interest in. I greatly appreciate Deziel for not only introducing this profession but also for providing such an engaging presentation and practical advice on how to become successful at it.

Deziel’s most salient advice and the concept that continues to reverberate for me, was her statement that “creativity thrives within confines.” At first, this was a jarring conclusion to me. I had always subscribed to the freewheeling, open-ended notion of creativity. However, Deziel imparted that confines or parameters “give your brain a direction to go in” and her analogy about being bi- or multilingual and being asked to recite something specific in a foreign language as opposed to having to select from an infinite amount of possible phrases really drove home the point of applying confines for creative thought.

I have since explored the subject of creativity and constraints and uncovered a couple of interesting articles. One article, “A Non-Writer’s Guide to Storytelling,” by Kristen Longnecker, talks about instituting “frames” into creative challenges to “switch your brain’s track . . . to problem solving mode.”

In another article, “The Benefits of Constraints,” writer Charlie Gilkey admits that it is counterintuitive to impose confines on creativity, however, he emphasizes that “constraints also liberate us to do our best because they save our precious time, energy, and attention for focusing on achieving the goal within the confines of the constraints.”


Deziel’s demonstration of applying focus and format to content by using her matrix system,  truly elucidated how confines really work in the process of generating creative content ideas. She offered the most useful information by providing ten focus areas or things content can be about, and ten formats, which she explained are the ways to bring content to life. The exercises she led the class in tested the functionality of  her matrix  system and proved its effectiveness while being educational and fun. The inclusion of content multipliers was a bonus to the very impactful lesson on producing branded content.

Deziel was an exceptional presenter at the Immersion who shared a wealth of Story Fuel Story Ideas Guideinformation on a very important topic for communications professionals. As the person responsible for regularly producing  content for my organization’s website, newsletters, and social media platforms, I found Deziel’s session to be invaluable. It greatly expanded my perspective on what’s possible regarding creating fresh, quality content that helps to enhance my organization’s engagement with our public. I have since downloaded Deziel’s content matrix and shared it with my staff. It has already made our brainstorming sessions on story ideas more efficient and a lot less stressful. And, it was great to also find on Deziel’s website,, a useful guide to better story writing, containing worksheets for composing instructional, informational, and opinion stories.

Finally, I must add that I appreciated Deziel’s mini Latin lesson: The word “Content” comes from the Latin roots of con + texere, and means “weave together,” an appropriate bit of information all communicators should know

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