Taegan Goddard

Why repeating your message isn't the same as staying on message

Overt repetition tends to infuriate the audience

Taegan Goddard

Somewhere along the line, political consultants must have told politicians and their spokespeople to repeat their answers over and over again. The logic behind their recommendation: News organizations often have space for only a single quote per person, so if you utter the same sentence over and over again, they'll be forced to use it. 

That may have worked many years ago, but it doesn't work anymore. Today's reporters shame repetitive pols by releasing the video of their full, evasive, interview. And it's not just broadcast reporters who shame obfuscating politicians — print reporters often post the video to their newspaper websites as well.

Ed Miliband, Leader of the British Labour Party, offered a classic example of why the "repeat your message" strategy doesn't work anymore. In this video — which received hundreds of thousands of views and temporarily made Miliband a laughingstock — he repeats his exact same message five times.

And see if you can spot the message in this 2008 press conference delivered by Cullen Sheehan, then the spokesperson for Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).

Brad Phillips writes in his new book, The Media Training Bible, that such overt repetition tends to infuriate the audience. Instead, he recommends that politicians repeat the themes of their messages in every answer by using a combination of stories, statistics, and sound bites. By using variety, spokespeople can ensure that they stay "on message" without ever being overly redundant.

It's a good lesson for anyone who wants to be an effective communicator.

Recommended

Swiss voters uphold COVID restrictions in referendum
swiss covid protesters
Swiss miss their chance

Swiss voters uphold COVID restrictions in referendum

Taiwanese air force warns off Chinese incursion
taiwanese air force
buzz off!

Taiwanese air force warns off Chinese incursion

South Africa objects to Omicron travel bans
naledi pandor
No good deed

South Africa objects to Omicron travel bans

Hondurans vote for new president as incumbent faces extradition
nasry asfura poster
Victory or prison

Hondurans vote for new president as incumbent faces extradition

Most Popular

7 cartoons about Thanksgiving inflation
Political Cartoon.
Feature

7 cartoons about Thanksgiving inflation

Who pays America's taxes?
Taxes.
Briefing

Who pays America's taxes?

Solutions: Crossword and Sudoku - Issue: November 26, 2021
crossword
Puzzles

Solutions: Crossword and Sudoku - Issue: November 26, 2021