A writer’s exercise: “Who am I? Who are we? What is our common purpose?” (Answer in 10 words or less).

The questions are:

Who am I?

Who are we?

What is our common purpose?

For the venerable Newt Gingrich, it was captured in a shining example of verbal identity, containing just ten words:

“God wanted me to be a bear, not a gazelle.”

As a writer, the efficiency of the 10 word answer tickled me. Because in those ten words he reminds the Christian right that he’s God-fearing, just like them. And he depicts himself as stolid and powerful, not flighty (or necessarily young). And he suggests to everyone that he is what they both need.

And as a writer who wants to encourage good writing by others, I was thrilled because it immediately suggested a new writing exercise.

Can you nail your answers to those 3 questions in ten words or less? 

You’ll need the answers right in the front of your head when you stand up and pitch to a client. Or stand up and pitch to the board. Or stand up and pitch to investors. Or stand in front of a customer and sell.

You also need the answers written on the wall in front of you when you start to write copy.

It’s a good exercise. Try it. Let me know how you got on.

I’ll publish the best.


ps In another passage, Gavin reviews Alastair Campbell’s distinction between objective, strategy and tactics.
As communications director, Alastair guided New Labour with a strong vision, knowing always what the objective of any campaigning was (“What is our Common Purpose?”). ¬†Only then did he shape the election strategy and the appeal to the voters (“Who are we?”). And only when he had that nailed, did he decide on the stories which would work best (“Who am I?”). It’s the difference between the stone mason who is “cutting a stone to shape” and the stone mason who is “building a great cathedral” – and the difference between them and the third stonemason, who is “Working for the greater glory of God.”