Anyone who's old enough to remember the classic Australian television ad about “football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars” would be familiar with the concept of repetition as a persuasive communication technique.
In the clip below from the 1970s, (there was also a US version), you'll notice the mantra is repeated close to a dozen times.
We’re beaten mercilessly over the head with a slogan that is so iconic, it must have been unpatriotic to consider buying anything other than a Holden.
Advertisers like Holden have long known that repetition is the mother of all learning because it helps to make a message magnetic.
With repeated exposure, an idea or concept that at first may seem strange to us can become familiar, clear, understandable, comforting - and most importantly, memorable.
And as anyone who deals regularly with the media will know, it can be just as effective when you are trying to convince or persuade a reporter.
Shining a spotlight on a word, phrase or idea several times during an interview signals to a reporter that it’s an angle you believe to be important or newsworthy.
Subtle repetition is important in an interview because a reporter is busy taking notes, listening to what you are saying, analysing it and preparing to ask the next question. They might not hear an important point if you say it just once.
You could mention a name or a number, but without repetition chances are it would be wiped from a reporter’s short-term memory in less than 30 seconds.
A German psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus scientifically tested this theory in 1885 when he coined "the forgetting curve". He was one of the first to examine repetition and how the short term memory works in terms of retaining information.
Various studies have since proved that if you only make a point once in an interview or presentation, probably less than 10 per cent of people will remember it. If you repeat it three to six times in different ways, retention can jump to around 90 per cent.
So whether they like it or not, repetition is a valuable technique when it comes to helping reporters and the public absorb new ideas. When done badly though it becomes odious, counter-productive and starts to marginalise what might be a very important message.
Remember that reporters are masters at seeing through clichéd, tedious spin - and so is the public. Perhaps we should blame politicians for that because they often provoke a strong negative reaction when they repeat a message or phrase without providing any real context, meaning or evidence.
The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced an immediate backlash after using the phrase “Moving Forward” 24 times in five minutes before the 2010 federal election. She might have made her message stick, but it was like fingernails down a blackboard due to poor tone, an unconvincing message and overkill.
Similarly, the Opposition leader Tony Abbott sounded like a broken record when he reeled off his "stop the boats" slogan six times in his pre-election speech, with four of those references jammed into the last 20 seconds.
To put that into context, imagine if someone tweeted the same repetitive message all day, every day on Twitter. It would quickly become so annoying and so counter-productive that we would tune out and stop following.
So while repetition is a powerful way to ensure reporters (and even your colleagues and clients) hear your key message, you really need to be smart about it.
That means repeating words, statistics or facts in the right proportion and in a variety of ways as part of a natural conversation so that they stand out.
For example, you might want to talk about the cost of new regulation and you might say: “The cost for consumers, the cost for industry and the cost for the economy will be high.”
This is known as a triple whammy or a hat trick, where you repeat a single word three time to emphasise significance.
But a random statement like that is not convincing without some evidence to support it. So at another point in the interview you might mix it up by just talking about the cost to customers, and providing examples of how customers might be worse off.
If I hear the word 'cost' enough in various forms, I'm in no doubt as to what you're trying to highlight.
Effective communicators also use their voice to underline and emphasise key points. So don't be afraid to alter the tone or volume of your voice in a media interview to highlight concerns or to create interest.
For repetition to be effective with reporters and the public, you need to be convincing, passionate and interesting.
You really need to talk to a theme and provide a meaningful insight rather than just repeating an ambiguous slogan that grates and has no real news value.