Say it again, and again, and …

By Rick Cole April 12, 2024 Strategic Communication

Did you know that many commonly known “facts” simply are not true. For example:

  • The Great Wall of China is not visible from space.
  • Cracking your knuckles does not lead to arthritis.
  • You do not lose more body heat through your head.

If you—like I—have always accepted these “facts” as true, it’s very likely not because you verified them yourself. It’s because you’ve heard them repeated many times. And you’ve likely acted on them yourselves—i.e., always wore a hat in cold, or repeated them to others.

This phenomenon, called The Illusory Truth Effect is the result of a cognitive bias that shows people are more likely to accept—and act on—information after repeated exposure to it.

There are many theories about how this bias works. One is that once we process/learn something, the second, third, and fourth time we hear it, we don’t learn it afresh. We just quickly and unconsciously check it off as known.  Another is that the human mind remembers what it has heard before a lot more effectively than it recalls a single, unique statement. In short, repetition makes ideas stick.

Strategic Repetition

Understanding the cause and effect of this common bias can help you increase the impact of your employee communications and overcome misconceptions that audiences may have acquired. Following are some strategies for applying it in ways that will help ensure your messages are remembered and acted upon by your employees:

  1. Consistent and Frequent Messaging: Ensure that key messages about company values, goals, policies, and procedures are consistently and frequently communicated through various channels such as team meetings, emails, posters, and intranet announcements. Repetition of these messages can enhance their importance in the minds of employees.
  2. Storytelling: Share stories or anecdotes that reinforce the desired behaviors or values within the organization. By repeatedly sharing these stories in different contexts, employees are more likely to internalize the intended message and incorporate it into their own behaviors.
  3. Visuals and Multimedia: Incorporate visuals, videos, and multimedia content into your communications. Visuals have been shown to enhance memory retention and make information more persuasive. Using a variety of media formats also increases the likelihood that employees will encounter and engage with the message multiple times.
  4. Leadership Role Modeling: Leaders should consistently demonstrate the behaviors and values they want to promote within the organization. Employees often look to leaders as role models, and their actions can reinforce the messages being communicated through other channels.
  5. Microlearning: Break down important information into smaller, digestible chunks that can be easily consumed and remembered over time. Consider implementing a microlearning strategy where employees receive short, targeted messages on a regular basis to reinforce key concepts.

Strategically leveraging repetition in your employee communications will increase the likelihood that important messages are remembered and acted upon by your employees.

At the risk of repeating myself, Smith is here to help with all your employee communication. From strategy to implementation, employee communication is what we do.