“Play it again, Sam”
At a strategy meeting last December, I advised an advocacy organization to cultivate a panel of “champions” who would communicate their key messages via relevant policy forums and media. One of their Board members countered: The President has already said this is important and so did Bill Gates. If that didn’t make a difference, what can these less influential champions accomplish?
Her question illustrates how even smart, savvy people underestimate the power of repetition. Repetition is important, often necessary, for people to take an idea seriously, understand it, and act on it. Humans are predisposed to either ignore or reject new ideas—we cleave to the familiar, especially when we’re busy and stressed. That’s where repetition comes in. Every time you encounter an idea, you process it a little more deeply and your comfort level grows. In fact, even if you’ve never noticed that billboard you drive past everyday, it may have permeated your consciousness so that when you see that product in the supermarket, it’ll be more likely to catch your eye and will have a vaguely familiar feel to it.
So, when you’re promoting a new idea, recognize that your audience needs time to accept it and be prepared to repeat yourself often. But try and be subtle about the repetition so you don’t annoy people. It’s best if you can present your idea via different sources and channels, and in different contexts. That stimulates different kinds of processing for better understanding and creates an ‘echo chamber’ for better acceptance.
A truth told once is no match for a lie oft repeated. This quote, attributed to writer James Rozoff, makes my point nicely. In fact, so does the title of this tip.