Blog: This rule will ensure changes stick in people's minds

Employer Branding & Communication

This rule will ensure changes stick in people's minds

Communicating important information isn't always easy. If you really want your point to stick in people's minds, you need to try this rule to get it across.
This rule will ensure changes stick in people's minds

Last evening during a review of a change management guide developed by an intern, I was asked – ‘what is the best way to promote this new guide? Do I send it out via email, chat or schedule a meeting?’ My immediate reaction was ‘all three and more’. I could tell by her expression that she thought it overkill. While I laid down a concise rationale in the meeting, I realized that I should have said more.

With more time to properly address the rationale, here I explain it a little more thoroughly; a rationale that lays out why we not only needed to use all three mediums and more but also use them multiple times. 

Every professional I know is currently inundated with an overflowing inbox, multiple unread chat notifications and an ever-ringing cellphone. Separating signal vs noise takes up so much time and effort that many urgent and important tasks go unnoticed. We are neck deep in an attention economy where the loudest, brightest and sneakiest messages get noticed first. As much as I love the concept of a zero inbox and all read notifications, let’s face it – if I hit ‘send’ and expect people to read it with no extra effort on my part, the message is likely to get lost, seen too late or not at all. 

Thus, enter the golden 7x7 rule. 

What is the 7x7 Rule?

Not to be confused with the 7x7 rule for PowerPoint presentations, the 7x7 rule of communication says you need to have at least seven ways of communicating the same change throughout your organisation at least seven different times. 

This rule first originated in marketing, where it is also known as the rule of 7. It states that a potential customer must see a message at least seven times before they’ll be provoked to take an action. This marketing principle is a maxim that was developed in the 1930s by the movie industry, who found through research that a potential moviegoer had to see a movie poster at least seven times before they would go to the theatre to see a movie.

Given the raging success of this rule in marketing, many other departments have adopted it over time and it is especially relevant when attempting to communicate change. Here are three simple reasons why:

Reduced risk of missed communication: When I start working with someone new, the first thing I tell them is ‘my inbox is my to-do list. If you want something done, email me. If sent via chat, it is likely I will miss it.’ While this introduction startles some people, over time they appreciate it as they know exactly what mode of communication works best with me. For some of my peers, it is the other way around – their inbox is not the place to go. Instead the only way to catch them is to either Slack or by scheduling time on their calendar. No one size fits all and hence, hitting all modes of communication (ideally seven) increases the chances of being seen. 

Repetition increases familiarity: Our friends over at Marketing believe that when someone begins to recognise your brand name, they’re more likely to make a purchase. I do not disagree. The most oft raised concern with hitting all modes of communication and hitting it multiple times is that the audience may begin considering it as spam. On the flip side, the audience will not always catch the call to action, the reason for change or all details the first time. With every additional exposure, they glean an expanded understanding of the message thus increasing the likelihood of action. Research shows that repetition increases familiarity - seeing the same person everyday increases your fondness for the person or being exposed to the product multiple times increases the chances that you will buy it the next time you see it.  

Repetition increases clarity, certainty, confidence, and commitment: It’s one thing to gain a permanent spot in the forefront of consumers’ minds. It’s another to get them to trust your brand to the point where they make a purchase. Closely linked to the familiarity, repetition also helps improve the 4 Cs: clarity, certainty, confidence and commitment.

Why is it controversial?

If the rule of 7 is as simple and beneficial as stated, why do some people vehemently disagree with it? Two reasons (1) the research on the rule is sparse and questionable. While some evidence exists, not enough has been invested in convincing the masses and (2) in an age of information overload, the last thing one needs is to be hit seven times and in seven different ways with the same piece of information. 

So, does it really work? It does! While we don’t need to do it seven times in seven different ways, the fact remains that one does need to hit every available challenge and needs to hit it more than once for any message to get through. To me, it is undebatable but if you disagree, leave me a message and I promise I’ll respond. 

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Topics: Employer Branding & Communication, #Communication, #ChangeManagement

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