Jimmy Two-Times on Repetitive Messaging

There’s a classic scene in Goodfellas when the main character is introducing the members of the gang:

And then there was Jimmy Two-Times, who got that nickname because he said everything twice like, ‘I’m gonna go get the papers, get the papers.’

It may not sound like much, but that brief acquaintance became one of the most quoted lines from the movie. So much so, that when I read a recent interview with Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard University’s President, Jimmy immediately popped into my mind.

In the interview, Drew was discussing her techniques for communicating with the masses. She did not mention the need to tailor a message for the audience (which matters) or how to speak so others will listen (which is a necessary skill). Drew focused on how she needs to repeat a message.

I am struck by how challenging it is to communicate messages in a large organization. You have to say them again and again and again. As a history scholar, if I publish something, I don’t ever say it again…But a leader needs to have a message that can be identified, understood, and incorporated by the constituency you’re trying to lead. So you just have to keep saying the same things over and over again.

This may sound frustrating, but it’s the reality of being a leader. One email, one meeting agenda item, one tweet does not suffice in getting your message out there. We can attribute this to the overload of information we all face, however it is also true that repetition demonstrates the importance of your subject matter.

The next time you have an important message, develop a media blitz. Give a speech. Write a memo. Post it on social media. Create a poster. Pass out candy as you walk to each cubicle. Whatever it takes to ensure that people hear you and recognize that it is a priority.

You think Jimmy Two-Times was effective? Be Jimmy Ten-Times.

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