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The war for attention: How to be a skillful communicator

Never have humans talked, tweeted or texted more words — and found it more difficult to be heard.

Why it matters: In this era of nonstop noise, every person must be a skillful communicator. Yet most struggle at it.

  • Customers and employees are demanding to know what companies stand for. Most executives have been lousy at providing an answer.
  • Our remote and hybrid working world puts a premium on clarity and consistency of message. Most managers are unprepared.
  • When communication fails, teams and ideas fail. 30% of all project failures are the direct result of poor communication, according to a Project Management Institute study.

Here are a few tips we have learned running a media company that you can use to bust through the noise:

  1. Write like you speak. Jargon, throat-clearing and well-known background weigh your message down. Conversational language is captivating.
  2. Ruthlessly prioritize. Attention spans are short and shrinking. Accept it. Get to the point quickly so readers can move on. 60% to 80% of people will scan, not read, what you write, University of Maryland research found.
  3. Repetition matters. If you want someone to remember something, communicate crisply — and repeatedly. By the time you have annoyed yourself, others are probably starting to hear you.
  4. Diversify. Fast. Every person needs to be able to speak authoritatively — or listen authentically — about diversity, equity and inclusion. If you rolled your eyes at this one, get help, quick.

The big picture: The communications crisis isn’t confined to business or top leaders. The more noise and distraction, the more precision and efficiency matter in being heard — and remembered.

  • Just look at politics: Power no longer flows from position, seniority or money. It flows to those who master — or game — modern, short-burst communications on cable or Twitter.
  • Teachers, preachers, small-group leaders — everyone who communicates one-to-many — faces similar challenges in penetrating brains rewired by quick-twitch technology.

📱 You're invited: Join Jim VandeHei and other Axios colleagues Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET for a half-hour virtual event, "The War for Attention: Communication Rules for a Hybrid Workforce." Sign up here.

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