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How do you make your message stick?  

Make your messages stick by using several channels to convey it and fresh examples to keep your audience engaged, writes Paul Thornton.

4 min read


message stick

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Some leaders mistakenly think that if they state their big idea (significant change, new strategy, core priorities, etc.) once or twice, their message will get through. They wrongly believe their message will be remembered and acted on.    

Influential leaders know the importance of repeating their message over and over to make it stick. Repetition is a foundational learning technique. Research indicates that little, if any, learning occurs without repetition and reinforcement. The best coaches and teachers use the power of repetition in the classroom and on the playing field to their message stick. 

The power of repetition to make a message stick

Advertising agencies have long understood the power of repetition. That is why you can identify the company associated with each of these slogans.   

  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
  • You’re in good hands with ___________________.
  • Just Do It!
  • When you care enough to send the very best.

Hatim Tyabji, former Chairman and CEO of VeriFone, Inc., had a poster in his office that showed twelve blocks, each with a photo of an Irish Setter. In the first eleven blocks, the dog was standing, oblivious to a command to “sit.” Finally, in block twelve, the Irish Setter sits. “Good dog,” reads the poster. Hatim states, “That is the essence of leadership. I cannot get disillusioned when I say ‘sit’ and nobody sits. So, I just keep repeating the message. Leaders must be clear, consistent and repetitive. Keep repeating the message until it sticks.”

A.G. Lafley, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, constantly reminded his employees of four words: “The customer is the boss.” He used repetition to keep hammering this simple message so that employees would own it. 

On October 29, 1941, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, gave a speech recounting his nation’s progress during the first ten months of World War II. The entire speech was approximately two pages in length. The following sentence was in one of the middle paragraphs: 

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Today, the rest of Churchill’s speech is largely forgotten, but this one sentence is still widely quoted and remembered due to its repetitive structure.  

Use fresh approaches

Repetition is important. But it can become boring if you simply repeat your message over and over like a broken record. The most dynamic leaders keep repeating their message but they do it by providing fresh examples and stories.   

  • Use up-to-date examples and stories to keep your message relevant and meaningful.  
  • Create slogans and sound bites. A catchy slogan will keep your message front and center in people’s minds.   
  • Training programs provide an excellent opportunity for all participants to discuss the important ideas you want them to remember.    

Communicate your message through multiple channels

To make your message stick, employ the “7 x 7 rule.” That is simply a shorthand way of saying, “Deliver your message at least seven times through at least seven different channels.” 

Here are a few channels to consider. 

  • Blogs
  • Emails
  • Letters
  • Meetings (team, departmental, all-hands, etc.) 
  • Newsletters 
  • Special occasions (banquets, rewards ceremonies) 
  • Videos

One of my students, a waitress at a local restaurant, told me how her boss took five minutes before the start of every shift to meet with his wait staff to discuss one of the restaurant’s seven core values. They discussed what the value meant, why it was significant and what actions each person would take to live the value during the upcoming shift. These discussions reinforced the importance of the company values.   

Information overload is common these days. You must repeat your message numerous times in a variety of ways to make it stick! Use fresh examples and stories to keep your message relevant and engaging.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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