“Over-communicate” is a misnomer. It sounds negative. It sounds excessive. Suppose I said, “Listen, Grace, you over-communicated with the customer.” Or, “Gary, I want you to over-communicate the results from this pricing test.”

The truth is over-communicating is not over the top in any way. In fact, Ken Makovsky, President of Makovksy & Company, a successful Public Relations and Communications consultancy, defines over-communication as “repetition of the same message at least once.” That’s hardly going overboard. Markovsky advises, “If you need to have the task done right, there is no risk in over-communicating.”

However, I believe there is a level of repetition that produces overkill. In Marketing, the rule of 7 states that a potential customer needs to experience a message (see, hear, read, smell, feel) at least 7 times before they will make a decision and take action. Some call this “effective frequency”. Others would say this is why the advertising industry is in crisis.

I’m sure we all loathe the advertising we can’t escape. My latest frustration is the mandatory advertisements that play before a film will start on Air Canada flights. It starts with a guy named Sam talking about investments and I zone out.

Yet, there’s no denying that messages are more effective when repeated. The trick is to communicate fewer messages, more often. Nike has been saying “Just Do It” for nearly 30 years.

Here’s the insight: We should apply the same rules about over-communication to our own careers. Even if we draw a line at 3 repetitions, most of us are under communicating key messages to clients and colleagues.

Below is a three-step guide to effectively over-communicate:

Step 1: Communicate What You Plan to Do Before You Do It

There are several benefits to communicating your objectives and plans before you execute them:

  • It provides others with context around why you’re doing it.
  • It gives your audience an opportunity to provide feedback (even if you don’t think you need it).

People don’t like surprises – even good surprises are often stressful. Save the surprise for birthday presents and thank you cards instead of business activities.

You may already do this at the outset of a new client relationship or project, but it’s equally important to keep up communication on a short cadence as well, such as concise weekly go-forward updates.

In my current organization, we use a technique called OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) to set and communicate goals and results for individual groups within the organization. It’s the same concept used at Google and initially invented at Intel. Before the start of each quarter, I am responsible for writing down and sharing my team’s quarterly objectives. In my experience, the greatest benefit of this exercise is communicating what I plan to do before I actual do it. I can quickly assess whether my priorities are aligned with other leaders.

Additionally, when I’m halfway through the quarter and someone asks, “Why are we spending time on secondary research?” I can point back to the OKRs as explicit agreement. Of course, as priorities changes (and they always do), it’s helpful to communicate what you are no longer planning to do as well.

Step 2: Communicate Your Progress and What You’re Learning as You Do It

Lots of projects take longer than a week to complete. This presents a great opportunity to engage your clients or colleagues on your progress. As the customer, it’s reassuring to know someone is making progress (or at least tracking it).

Consider Amazon: The email that says, “Your order of Echo Dot has shipped!” comes after the order confirmation email but before the package arrives at your doorstep.

Moreover, you’re typically learning as you execute against your work plan. The cause of any deviation represents what you’ve learned. And that’s an insight your client or colleague can appreciate.

Step 3: Communicate the Results After You’ve Done It

Ok, you’ve completed the work. Now, it’s time to celebrate! Before you do, let your clients or colleagues know the work is completed and the results you’ve seen or expect to see.

We probably take this step for granted. What makes you stand out is connecting your message back to the original message you shared. You can harness a consistent thread to make your communication more powerful with fewer words.

For example, I recently spoke with the owner of a web development business who talked about dealing with planned maintenance. Before the maintenance, she notifies customers why maintenance is important (it reduces risk of incidents in the future) and when it is going to happen. During the maintenance, she communicates when it is starting and then hourly updates until finished. And, finally, when it’s completed, she provides a short summary of the work completed and ties it back to the ability to reduce unplanned incidents in the future.

You might think you’re a broken record, but repetition of clear, concise messages before, during, and after the work is done will improve your client and colleague communications.