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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

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


Page last edited Jun 23, 2017 History

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