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How to write a policy briefing

Policy briefings are short documents that communicate an organisation's policy recommendations. They are usually written for a non-specialist audience.

Things you'll need

  • your policy recommendations
  • background research
1

Consider your audience

Think carefully about who your target audiences are. Is your briefing aimed at your members or beneficiaries, civil servants, the media - or perhaps a mixutre of all of them? You need to ensure that your briefing addresses the needs of your readers, however diverse they may be.

2

Use a clear structure

Start by introducing yourself and outlining your authority on the issue. This will add legitimacy to your arguments. Then state clearly the purpose of your briefing; try and ‘hook’ your audience from the outset by persuading them of the importance of the issue as well as the recommendations that will follow. A contents summary can help with navigation - only parts of your briefing will be relevant to some readers. Always include a publication date too.

3

Write in plain English

Clear and concise messages help make complex research findings easier to digest. Try to avoid jargon or technical language wherever possible as this will alienate a non-specialist audience. It might be useful to ask someone else (preferably with little knowledge of the area) to read through a draft and ‘jargon-proof’ it.

4

Give your opinions as well as the facts

Make it clear where your evidence has come from and include a short list of sources for further reading. Don’t assume that your audience will only want to read the objective findings of your research though - most readers will be interested in your opinions too. Don’t be afraid to give them!

5

Keep it brief

Briefings should ideally be kept to 3-4 sides of A4. Policymakers are presented with vast amounts of information on a daily basis and work to short deadlines. Make sure your briefing sticks to the point.

6

Encourage action

Encourage a reaction from your audience by highlighting questions for further discussion or making practical recommendations. You might also want to consider following up your briefing with a face-to-face meeting or seminar.

7

Publicise your briefing

In addition to your organisation’s own communication channels and networks, find out whether you can publicise your briefing on external websites and mailings.

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Page last edited Jun 23, 2017 History

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