The Task Outline provided in this section will help you create communications that effectively meet audience expectations.
Task 1: Develop the Information
Collect information from a variety of sources to include in your memo or opinion.
Attend relevant public or private meetings; take full notes; get copies of statements and other documents available; get contact information for participants
Get a copy of the agenda (if there is one) beforehand or at the start of the meeting
During the meeting, attend to what’s said and to the context it represents
Jot (in the margins of the agenda) your own notes and questions about the proceedings, and capture (as nearly verbatim as you can) the significant questions asked by others
Immediately after the meeting, contact participants, government staff, topic experts, or knowledgeable citizens for answers to questions or referrals to sources
Consult the sources to gain a better sense of the context.
From varied sources
Find and read pertinent publications and materials.
Consult with knowledgeable people inside and outside government such as:
Professionals who draft legislation, administer law, or litigate issues
Librarians in government information collections
Academic specialists or practitioners in relevant fields
Nnonprofit advocacy organizations interested in the issues
For profit organizations interested in the issues
Journalists who inform the public about the issues
People actually or potentially affected by the problem in everyday life
Take notes on your conversations; record your search paths; save copies of e-mails.
From informed reflection and analysis
Update the original questions and re-frame the issues as information develops.
Pause periodically to summarize your understanding, and to critically examine it.
Continue to consult as needed to improve your understanding of the process and context.
Task 2: Write the Memo or Statement
Craft the document’s contents for quick comprehension and ready use. Do not include everything you know. Include only what the user needs and the purpose requires. (You can provide more information later, if necessary.)
Choose the right presentation. If you are representing an organization, use its template (if it has one) for memos or statements.
Communicate your memo or statement on the organization’s letterhead stationary. If you are free to design the communication, fit it into one or two pages (or the equivalent).
Provide a header (to/from, subject, and date), an overview sentence or paragraph, and ‘chunks’ of text with sub-headings that summarize the contents of each ‘chunk.’ You might also use a covering letter or attachments.
Caution: before attaching anything crucial, consider the circumstances of reception, or how the document will be read and used. Attachments sometimes get detached when the document is circulated.
Review and Revise
After drafting the communication, review and revise as needed. (Use the General Method and Communication Checklists.) If you are pressed for time, revise only to focus the message sharply. From the reader’s perspective, that is most important.