Effective communication is hard and getting harder because too many people are just making noise

A man's hand holding a noise meter outside the fence of an airport

Having problems getting your message to cut through the noise?

If you’re in sales, marketing, or a similar business role that involves getting people to trade you money in return for something, you’ll find the internet is awash with advice on how to do it.

Most of it isn’t very helpful.

Not because it’s wrong (though a lot of it is), but because it generally ignores the real problem in favor of quick fixes.

From the obvious, “Got a low email response rate? Try tailoring your message for the recipient!” to the glib, “Position your brand as a thought leader by posting insightful content on your blog and social media,” it’s all very reminiscent of Steve Martin’s old “how to become a millionaire and pay no taxes” bit (“It’s easy! First, get a million dollars…”)

The truth is, being effective in marketing and/or sales is hard and it’s only getting harder.

Back when I was first starting out in this business, experts said the average person was bombarded with around 1,900 commercial messages a day. Fast forward 25 years and it’s now more like 19,000.

That’s an ungodly amount of noise to filter in order to find a signal. No wonder so many people are tuned out.

Unfortunately, the response has been to look for the easy fix by turning to tools and tricks that make more noise (bigger pictures, more frequent messages, extra emojis, etc.), when what is really needed is a signal boost.

The problem, of course, is not many people have the skills to boost the signal by crafting powerful messages anymore. Moreover, developing those skills requires time and effort, which in this automated, cloud-based, AI-generated world is more than most are willing to do.

And so the noise gets louder.

Fortunately, if you’re not a lazy girl, and you’d prefer not to be replaced by a robot, it’s possible to develop the right skills in a reasonable amount of time. In fact, you can start right now simply by memorizing the four basic components of all effective communications – marketing, sales, political, personal, or otherwise.

The Power of Icy Pee Pee

To accomplish their purpose, your words have to a) get the attention of the reader, b) be understood, c) sell them on an idea, and d) be memorable. Back in writer school we were taught to remember this as “Icy Pee Pee” – which is ICPP, or Impact, Clarity, Persuasive, and Persistent.


The first thing you have to do is get your reader to stop long enough to pay attention to what it is you’ve written. In a world where attention spans are now measured in milliseconds, that’s not easy to do. You can try shouting louder than everyone else demanding their attention, but in a world of bullhorns, sometimes it’s better to whisper so your reader will lean in to hear what you’re saying.

You don’t have to make them lean in for long. Just long enough for them to stop and pay attention.


If your reader doesn’t understand what you’re talking about, you’re wasting both your time and theirs. Simple, direct, easily understood language is always more effective than cluttered, obtuse, or redundant language. “Now” is cleaner than “at this point in time.” “Person” (a single human being) is better than “individual” (a single thing). And there’s no need to bolt “actionable” on to “insight” because it is, by definition, actionable – if it weren’t it’d just be an observation.

Clarity also has a psychological advantage in that things that are simple to understand are preferred over things that aren’t.


Everything written is selling something. Even a “beware of dog” sign is trying to influence an action on the part of the reader. All of the various techniques used in persuasive communications are a topic for a different article, but what’s important to remember is that your words must direct the reader to a particular conclusion or course of action.

Additionally, in order to be persuaded, the reader has to agree to it of their own volition – you can’t force it on them. If you try to force a conclusion, you’ll lose them.


I’m not talking about haranguing the reader like a needy ex who won’t stop texting you. I’m talking about communications that sink in and stick with the reader after they’ve finished what you’ve written. If your words are forgotten the moment they’re finished, you’ve failed.

As to what makes ideas stick in people’s minds, just like persuasiveness, that could fill another article. It really depends on the reader, which means you have to be attuned to your audience’s mindset. Sometimes it’s humor or intellect, sometimes it’s something they recently experienced, and sometimes (though less often than you think), it’s pain or difficulty.

The point is, your words, and the message they hold, need to persist after the reader has moved on to something else.

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It’s important to remember that the above is merely a framework for effective communication, not a miracle cure. There are no shortcuts, hacks, or quick fixes (in spite of what the Internet chatter claims).

Developing the skills to write effectively takes time and practice, which also means there’s going to be trial and error. That shouldn’t prevent you from putting in the effort though. If you do, it’ll become obvious you’re more capable of creating the sort of compelling messaging that slices through the noise with a good, strong signal to which people will want to listen.

This story first appeared on my website. If you’re interested in learning more about my marketing services, feel free to email me, or connect with me via LinkedIn, Facebook or X (aka: Twitter).