• Andy Powell

Telling your story in six words.


Ernest Hemingway once told a table of writers that he could write a story in just six words. They each bet him ten dollars that he couldn’t. So he took his napkin and scribbled the following:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

It has a beginning, a middle, an end. It makes you think. Most importantly, it gets to the point. Doesn’t complicate, adumbrate, obfuscate.

It’s a skill that we should all aspire to, because so often we only have a tiny window of opportunity to tell our own story. Be it a fundraising ask, call to action or campaigning message. Our audience is busy, distracted and often uninterested. We have to cut through the background noise and make a point pithily.

Of course, it starts with a clear proposition. I’m a stickler for them (sorry planners) — no ifs, buts or ands conjoining separate thoughts together.

That leads to clear creative executions. Like my political campaign for UNISON running on billboards, in press and online – "shouldn't your health come before profits?". And my Race for Life recruitment campaign for Cancer Research UK, running on posters, in press and online – "it's all of us V cancer".

Although they have very different aims, they consistently distill the information into a simple, powerful message. Which helped them both make the shortlist for the Campaign Outdoor Hall of Fame.

So set yourself a challenge. Can you tell your story in six words? It’s a great test, because it’s exactly what you’re asking your agency to do: on posters, on banners, in tweets.

© Andy Powell 2020