A challenge was given to Ernest Hemingway.
Tell a story in six words.
“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
OK, so those six words—the saddest classified ad in history—may not have actually been written by Hemingway. But that’s the way I heard it a few years ago during a writing seminar led by Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
He was talking about the power of words and how a few of them, well chosen and precisely placed, can do just about anything. They can lift you up. They can break your heart.
That lesson stayed with me and resonated even more when I traded journalism for marketing and landed a job as a copywriter. In modern advertising, you get only a few words. You’ve still got to tell the story, and you also must compel the reader to do something, buy something. Maybe even something life-changing, like a home.
I come back often to those six words. Their power lies in the sudden and the unexpected. If you didn’t feel like you’d just been punched in the stomach, you don’t have a pulse. Those six words remind me what’s possible and remind me not to settle.
In homebuilder marketing, it’s easy to fall into a routine, recycling the same ideas, the same promotions, the same words over and over. If you want your message to stand out, to linger in the prospect’s memory and motivate them to walk through your door, it helps to tell your brand’s true story simply, in a way they didn’t see coming.
It helps to know that words are powerful and anything is possible.
Derek Turner is the Senior Copywriter at NDG Communications. Before joining NDG, he spent more than a decade as a journalist, writing and editing at newspapers in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He also served as Senior Editor in the USO’s Marketing and Communications Department.