What is Medical Writing

The Rule of Seven

This is among the most important topics we’ve learned to master over the last few years. Repetition!!

1. The 7 Exposure Rule

Did you ever notice when you are promoting yourself or “selling” your services, that some people jump up and buy right away, and that others take their time, or may not buy at all in your lifetime with them? We often wondered about the difference between those groups, and if there was a way we could use that information to increase my close ratio – the numbers of people who said YES vs. No or nothing.

Then we learned about the 7 Exposure Rule.

The 7 Exposure Rule and My Learning Style

The 7 Exposure Rule says that someone must have seven exposures to information or a product or service before they know and use the information, or buy the product or service. I’d heard about that Rule in various forms over the years, and just took it as another fact I might or might not remember.

Then one day, I tested it on myself. I got experience with the Rule, and my experience PROVED the Rule. That was a break-through I’ve benefited from ever since.

At first The 7 Exposure Rule were just words to me. I heard them a few times in different places, so they had new relevancy and context each time I heard them. I then filed the info somewhere in the back of my mind. I forgot about it frankly. Then I got interested in why some people buy and some people don’t, and I had a new context for thinking about the 7 Exposure Rule. So I dug up the idea from brain storage once again.

I decided to watch my learning and exposure process on my decision to buy my first smart mobile phone. Would it be iPhone, Android, or Blackberry? My current cell phone was working just great, thank you, with calls, messaging, and calendar. With my new interest in Smartphones I suddenly began noticing all the tv commercials, then the sides of buses, billboards, and even where all the cellular carrier stores were in my neighborhood. I started reading online about features, benefits, and radiation safety. I noticed phones my family and friends had. I made some trial visits to phone stores to look and handle and ask questions, and would walk out empty-handed.

Then one day I decided I knew enough, that my itch needed to be scratched, and I walked directly into a phone store, up to a sales person, and said, “I’ll take that one! With this plan, this screen protector, and this cover. And I’ll take one for my wife as well.” The sales person was obviously pleased.

2. The 7 Exposure Rule – Why It WorksRule of Seven

The 7 Exposure Rule works because it accounts for the way we humans process information and make decisions.

If someone comes at me with information about something I haven’t considered previously, I may or may not remember or even notice the information. If I’ve been aware of the topic, I’ll remember the exposure, but not do much more. If the person is trying to have me learn something, or buy something, he or she will likely be disappointed. The seller or teacher is way too early in my process. Why?

When I walk away from an exposure, especially a first exposure, I will lose 80-90% of the information I just heard because I have other priorities on my mind and things to think about. This new information is interesting, but it’s an interrupt to my daily routine and thought process.

If I’m interested in the topic, and care to give it my attention (among a zillon other competing items), I will learn a bit more when I next choose to expose myself to the information. Again, I will understand the information when I hear it or see it, but I won’t yet be able to express it independently at my early stage of learning.

With each exposure, I learn more and more, partly because I am choosing to learn, and partly because I am benefiting from the repetition of information. I am understanding new pieces to the information puzzle. I am putting the pieces together at the information level. No action yet. Still learning.

After about 7 exposures, a number of things have happened. First, I’ve maintained interest and allowed repeated exposure. Second, because of my interest, I have sought out more details and have begun to integrate the information in my brain. Third, I have requested and reviewed the information repeatedly, each time taking it in deeper and thinking about how I might apply the information in my life. Finally, I’m ready to make a decision about whether I want to move forward on the topic, or, not.

I need to have the interest, I need to have the repetition, I need to integrate, and I need to act.

By the way, all of this is corroborated in studies of adult learning – lots of data available. I just don’t have space to annotate it here for you. But believe me, the data is IN.

The 7 Exposure Rule is incredibly powerful when understood and used properly in the hands of Teachers, Marketers, and Sellers. And you, as a medical writer, are a seller, whether you think of yourself that way or not.

  • Understand that repetition of information is good. People need repeated exposures to process and use information. So many organizations tell their audiences something once, the audience has understood at the time of the telling, and the organizers incorrectly think the job is done. “We Told ‘Em.” Wrong. People need to be told multiple times. Repetition is everyone’s friend.
  • Understand that when an audience leaves the teaching situation, a large part of their knowledge at the time of telling evaporates. Why? Other things on their mind, this information wasn’t top of mind, they may hear conflicting interpretation from peers, any number of reasons. Much of the information doesn’t stick.
  • Understand that information understanding and processing gets more efficient with each exposure. I remember more each time I’m exposed because I’ve started to build a base of understanding, a context of where to put all the pieces… IF I have interest.
  • Understand that if someone comes up and has a brilliant conversation with you, or tells you they are ready to buy, that they’ve probably had multiple exposures to the information previously. It’s not your brilliant teaching or materials or salesmanship. You are benefiting from their previous exposures.
  • And the remaining people who don’t respond either aren’t interested at this time, or are in their process of 7 Exposures.
  • The 7 Exposure Rule is incredibly powerful in that it speaks to both the information transmitter and the information receiver. The Rule reveals the process receivers of information go through, the process information transmitters go through, and the dance between them.

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