Although it may seem counterintuitive given our content saturated world, repetition remains a powerful tool for internal business communication.
Breaking through the noise is a constant challenge for internal business communication. Tasked with communicating important business objectives and corporate news, internal communicators must use psychology-backed strategies to ensure messages are retained in the modern, noisy work environment.
Repetition supports learning
Repetition is a familiar learning tool. Throughout our lives, we frequently use repetition to master concepts and commit information to memory. No matter which method you used to tie your shoes, you likely used repetition to commit the method to memory.
The old adage tells us, “Practice makes perfect.” But in reality, repetition rewires our brains to help us learn new things. As we learn through repetition, brain cells that send and receive information about the task become more and more efficient. These strengthened connections create new pathways in our brains. The new pathways are shortcuts, accelerating connections when it’s time to retrieve the information again.
Repetition not only rewires our brain to help us learn, it can also subtly persuade people, a phenomenon known as “mere exposure effect.” People often feel a preference for people or things simply because they are familiar. Repetition creates familiarity, which can make people more open to the information you are sharing over time.
This makes repetition a valuable tool that should be in every communicator’s toolbox. But it is important to use it judiciously. Think of repetition like a hammer. It’s a great tool to drive a point, but it’s not a universal tool that works for every job. In the same way you shouldn’t use a hammer to install screws, it’s best to only use repetition when it is truly the most appropriate tool for the job.
Repeat internal business communication across channels over time
Messages about safety and security protocols, change communications, and other critical business communications may be good candidates for a communications campaign that uses repetition. It’s important to ensure the repetition occurs across various channels over a period of time. As Seth Godin said, “Delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.”
Match the message to the medium when using repetition. If you use a sign in a break room, only include the key elements of your message. Most employees won’t stare at a board for five minutes to read a page full of copy. However, using a phrase on the sign that was also included in a company-wide email can reinforce the most important aspects of your message.
One of my favorite examples of the power of repetition comes from an internal business communication safety campaign I participated in several years ago while working in the manufacturing industry. A cross-functional group was tasked with illustrating safety rules in creative ways that would stick with employees. Several members of the group were talented musicians, so they wrote a song to share OSHA’s ladder safety regulations.
The song was performed live during a town hall meeting and included actors portraying safety violations. It was humorous and well-received. We also shared a video of the performance through a digital employee group for those in other locations or who had missed the meeting.
The video was viewed online many times over the following days. The infectious lyrics drove home the safety rules in a way that prior safety communications had not. It was a fantastic example of how creative messaging, combined with both the repetition of the lyrics and the ability to watch the video multiple times, led to increased message retention.
Repetition is a valuable communications tool, based on psychology, that can help increase message retention. Repeating messages over time and across multiple channels in a variety of ways can help employees remember critical internal business communication.