communication Donald Trump influence Persuasion politics sales

Pro Tip #72: Repetition

Repetition is persuasive. Repetition is persuasive. Yes, repetition is persuasive. Oh, did I mention repetition is persuasive? 

Professional persuaders know that repeating key points helps those points to stick in the mind of the listener. This is not a new rhetorical concept. The ancient Greeks called it anaphora, which means “carrying back.” 

A classic example of persuasive repetition is Winston Churchill’s defining address to the House of Commons during World War II. The UK was reeling from a humiliating defeat on the European continent, and Hitler’s troops were days away from capturing Paris. The UK needed reassurance. Churchill delivered. Before the House of Commons, he said:

“We…shall fight on the beaches,

we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

we shall fight in the hills;

we shall never surrender…” 

A far less eloquent use of persuasive repetition is those annoying, but hard to forget monster truck rally commercials. You know, the ones that say, “THIS SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!”

And then there’s the Persuader-in-Chief, Donald Trump, who uses repetition to drive home his points, especially when speaking off the cuff, like here:

The upshot is this — master persuaders know that if you hear something repeated enough times, it biases you to believe that what you’ve heard is true. So, mixed in some repetition next time you’re trying to persuade someone because repetition is persuasive. Believe me, repetition is persuasive.

Election 2020 Persuasion politics


As the 2020 campaign heats up, many Republicans are unleashing a salvo of attacks against Joe Biden’s mental health. Some conservatives, like James Woods, have already diagnosed Biden with dementia.

Republicans should temporarily cease-fire.

Yes, Biden appears to have lost his fastball, but a full-frontal attack on Biden’s mental health is risky. Publicly harpooning Biden’s cognitive functions carries the risk of appearing cruel, especially to elderly voters.

Bring in the engineered persuasion.

Instead of a full-frontal attack, Republicans should hint at Biden’s decline through indirect attacks. For example, consider Scott Adams’s nuclear-grade label, #HollowJoe. It’s a damning, but strategically ambiguous. It suggests there’s a problem, but allows the listener to fill in the blanks as to why Biden is an empty suit. A+ persuasion!

Sometimes suggesting there’s a problem is more effective then pointing it out. If history is any guide, chances are there will be plenty of Biden gaffs to come. If Team #MAGA is smart, they’ll capitalize on these gaffs while minimizing the risk of appearing callous.