Getting the timing right

When should you talk to people?

Timing your communication depends on
– your purpose, and
– the needs and interests of the people you are talking with.

For example, marketers and advertisers know that frequency is important. If you want people to remember your brand, product or service you need to present it to them frequently. Otherwise your competitors will crowd you out. Staying front of mind requires persistent effort. It also requires creativity so people don’t get bored and ignore your frequent communication.

But, if you are trying to get a new idea across, perhaps a new way to solve a complex problem or a change in corporate culture, simple repetition will not do the job. Your communication strategy needs to be designed to match the cognitive processes of your audience. It takes time for people to become comfortable with new ideas.

You could start by talking about your idea in broad terms, then a little later fill in some of the details, and a little later again explain how it will impact people. Introducing new ideas in this way allows your audience to grow their thinking gradually without having to get their head around an entire idea in a single bound.

Dumping your whole idea in a lump may be good for shock value, but it is unlikely to get people on side. In fact it could cause them to be more resistant to your idea, making repetition counter-productive.

Some basic principles:

  • Communication should move thinking –
    from the known to the unknown,
    from the simple to the complex,
    from the familiar to the unfamiliar
  • Take small steps – changes in attitude and thinking take time.
  • Allow people “soak time”, time to assimilate what you are saying. Give them time to ask questions and clarify.
  • Keep the frequency up. Repetition helps; but don’t become a nuisance.
  • Always respect your audience. Don’t dump undue complexity on them. Don’t irritate them with mindless repetition.


– what are you trying to achieve?
– what are your audience thinking now?

How can you build a communication strategy to bring about change?