One of the key elements of effective communication is repetition: the more you tell someone something, the more likely it is that the message will sink in. Adopting it as one of your go-to internal communication methods will considerably improve workplace communications in your organization.
What does repetition in communication mean?
Quite simply, the more you tell people something, the more likely they are to remember it.
It can be hard to reach people with important messages, particularly in the modern workplace where seemingly endless information sources compete for employees’ attention. Not only are they suffering from email overload, they’re also getting notifications from collaboration platforms, messenger apps, text messages, internal social media channels and more all day long.
Researchers from Harvard University have found that the rise of the internet and a constant stream of digital sources of information is actually causing our brains to retain less information.
The phenomenon has been dubbed “the Google effect” (and is also sometimes called “digital amnesia” and it is theorized that with so much information constantly available and with systems like Google able to help us to quickly locate information we need, our brains quickly discard information if we think we can look it up again later.
Even without so many competing information sources, it has been a long-standing practice in any form of communication that repetition helps people to recall a message.
The concept is known as the “marketing rule of 7” dates back to the 1930s, and suggests that people need to hear a message 7 times before they are able to retain it. And it works. Think of all the advertising and marketing slogans from some of the world’s biggest companies. For example, I can still recall Coca-Cola’s slogans from the 1980s that they haven’t used their marketing for decades now, because I was exposed to it so much at the time.
Internal communicators can learn lessons from the marketing and advertising worlds and adopt similar tactics in their communication campaigns: if you want people to remember something, you’re going to need to tell them several times!
How is repetition in communication effective?
Repetition is a great way to ensure that people receive the information you need them to know about. The ways why repetition in communication is effective include:
1. Message retention
Telling employees the same thing several times will help to ensure that they not only get the information, but they retain the information because of the repetition.
2. Provides clarity
Has someone ever asked you something in a meeting and you weren’t sure what because you were distracted? Did you go away wondering exactly what you were supposed to do? A lot of internal communications can feel like this. But when you use repetition, people who didn’t completely catch the information the first time will be subjected to it several more times to clarify what is expected.
3. Helps with accountability
When an employee receives information about something they disagree with that directs them to do something they don’t want to, they can often simply ignore it or say that they didn’t remember to do it or didn’t see the information in the first place. Repetition eliminates these passive-aggressive excuses: when they are saturated with information, they can’t avoid having to comply with what is being asked of them without having to face the consequences.
4. Helps keep large and/or complex organizational structures informed
Many workplaces today are a far cry from the traditional 9-5 office-based environment. People often work different shifts, in different teams, in different locations from their colleagues and working remotely. Other staff may be on the road traveling for work, or spend their work-days on construction sites, in retail outlets or in manufacturing plants. You may have a combination of all of these work arrangements in your company. By using repetition, you have the best chance of reaching everyone, no matter where they are or what they are doing.
Top tips to include repetition in your internal communications
If you’re looking to start including repetition in your internal communication, here are some of the best tips to do so:
1. Messages need to be simple
Shorter messages, more often, are the best way to use repetition. The other best practices of communication still apply here: information should be clear, concise and to the point. If you send large chunks of text over and over again, people will just ignore it.
2. Ignore your own boredom
You might be tired of saying the same thing repeatedly – but that doesn’t necessarily mean your employees are tired of hearing it. Don’t change things up just because you’re bored; only change if you see that you need to go in another direction.
3. Use different channels
Repetition doesn’t mean you have to send the exact same message the exact same way over and over again. You can reinforce your internal brand messaging by using a multi-channel approach to communication and sending similar messages in different ways.
For example, you may have a cyber security awareness campaign that you know won’t get traction if you simply send an email. Digital channels offered by DeskAlerts can provide an alternative to this: in our scenario, you could send screensavers, digital signage, scrolling ticker updates and test employees’ cyber security knowledge with a quiz.
4. Automate and schedule communications
If you are going to use repetition in communication, it can be easier to implement by automating and scheduling your content in advance so that you know it will be sent to people at set dates and times.
You don’t have to stick to a dictionary definition of repetition in communication: it isn’t repeating the same sentences over and over again in your written material. What you have to get right is the frequency of sending similar information, using innovative tools and channels to achieve successful communication outcomes.
What is repetition in communication?
Repetition is a method of communication that can add clarity to your messages and can reinforce the information that you’re sending by increasing the likelihood of message retention. It helps you to emphasize the points you are making with your audience.
What is essential for effective communication?
Effective communication is where the recipient of the information has no problems accessing, understanding or retaining it. This involves understanding who you are communicating with and delivering information in a manner that they will like receiving it, and ensuring that the content is clear and easy to understand and any call to action is easy to recognize.
What makes communication more effective?
Communication is more effective if it can rise above the digital noise of the modern workplace and cut through in a way that people will be able to respond to. This involves being clear, focused, avoiding ambiguity, and communicating in a respectful manner.
What are the five keys to effective communication?
Achieving effective communication requires adherence to five best practice rules:
- Ensuring honesty in your communication
- Personalizing your approach so that you speak directly to people or groups of people with similar attributes
- Learning to become an active listener
- Fostering a participatory management style where employees are empowered to participate in decision making
- Being careful with language, nuance and tone.