The Forum short course, part 6: Tools for engaging with policymakers – policy briefings

Writing a policy briefing

In part 6 of the The Forum’s short course, we look at how researchers can engage with policy makers via policy briefings.

A policy briefing is a short briefing note that summarises your research and the actions you want to recommend. Its brevity means that it is a good starting point for interacting with policy makers.

Policy briefings are an excellent way to get your ideas in front of policymakers - but to have an impact they need to be short and straight-forward for people who probably have little knowledge about your research area.

If you are writing, or would like to write, a policy briefing you can get in touch with The Forum team for guidance and feedback.

Top tips

  • Always target a specific group: make your communications directly relevant to the civil servant by referring to their area of work, or to an MP by their interests or constituents' interests. Policymakers receive a lot of communication so you must grab their attention quickly. Say within the first paragraph of your cover email that you are writing to them because you know of their interest in the subject and how your research impacts on this policy area.
  • Think about what the key messages are you want policymakers to take away from your findings and use to shape policy. Write these up in a compelling way and make sure you adapt them to the needs of the civil servant.
  • Include a clear ask on what you would like them to do with your findings, for example changing an existing policy or developing a new one. You can also ask for involvement in an event or request a meeting.
  • Remember that you are communicating with laypeople so be careful not to present your findings in a style that is too academic and inaccessible. Write succinctly and to the point in your first contact. You can then follow up with more detail and a personal discussion later.