Course Syllabus
Related Links and Resources
Site Map/Index
How to Inform Policy Makers in a Briefing Memo or Opinion
Tasks for Writing Briefing Memos or Opinions
Media Resources
Video Resources

Informing Policy Makers:
Tasks for Writing Briefing Memos or Opinions

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.

From meetings

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

Before you write, use the General Method. To target your purpose and audience, substitute strategy questions for the Method’s more general questions, as appropriate.

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.


[Return to top]

Task Outline


Task Outline