Six-Word Stories: Keys to Success

Which is easier to write well? A novel, or a haiku?

You might think a haiku would be easier since it’s shorter. I’d argue the opposite. It’s actually much more challenging to convey a powerful idea in fewer words than in more.

Often in healthcare marketing and health communications, we get so hung up on the buzzwords and medical speak, we forget to tell a story. Yet stories are a powerful way to get attention and make a point. And, when done well, very-short stories can be the most powerful of all.

One popular approach to this craft is called the “six-word story.” Examples of this style can be found online in many places, including Reddit and on sites like sixwordstories.net. The goal is to evoke an entire story using just six words. Some are dark, like, “Two went hiking. One came back.” Others are intriguing or playful, for example, “Dreamt of you last night; unfortunately.” Regardless of the tone, the best ones give you just enough input to create a compelling story in your mind.

Effective marketing and communications inspire the same kind of emotion. That’s why I always recommend writing the shortest thing first. If you can get your message really “tight” in short form, like on a billboard, you’ll have no trouble expanding on it in a print ad or TV spot.

Ready to write your own six-word story? Here are a couple of examples to help you get started.

1. If you can’t resist the urge to jump on the ER wait time bandwagon, don’t be like your competition and say something predictable like, “Because we know you’re busy, we make every effort to keep the wait times in our ER as short as possible. We also provide a convenient app that can be downloaded to your phone and handy digital readouts on billboards up-and-down area highways.”

Instead, use the power of the six-word story to cut to the chase. Show a photo of someone who has experienced a positive outcome, your logo and these six words:

“Her Bad Day Got Better Fast”

2. Want to promote a professional accomplishment of one of your key physicians in a way that makes them feel appreciated, benefits your brand and drives utilization of your facilities? Resist the urge to ramble on about, “… this recognition as the top endocrinologist in Bushwack County is a testament to Dr. Smith’s many years of dedication to providing exceptional care to patients in and around the Greater Springfield region.”

Instead, tell a six-word story that connects the dots in a compelling, human way. Next to a candid photo of Dr. Smith and a small acknowledgement of the award, say something like:

“Because she cares, her patients thrive.”

Figuring out the six-word story you want to tell is a great way to begin your next marketing campaign or communication piece. This approach will help you focus, and, like a well-written mission statement, it will give you something to use as an anchor for all related messaging. Then, when your boss asks you what you did and how it went, you can say,

“We told good stories. It worked.”

See what I did there?

Need help getting started? Wax Communications has been writing great stories that build brands and drive business for more than 25 years. Call 305-350-5700 or visit waxcom.com today to learn how we can help you write yours.