The Art of Writing a Ministerial Briefing Note
There are a dozen things to think about when dealing with a Minister’s office, including the introductory letter, familiarising yourself with the Minister, and working out your pitch.
However, the only thing you’ll leave behind is a briefing note - a single document the Minister’s office will use to recall your central issue, key messages and contextual relevance. As a result, it’s crucial to make sure it’s well-crafted and on message.
Here are some key pointers for putting together a good briefing note.
It’s in the name – brief
Many advocates provide reams of information at Ministerial meetings, believing the more they provide, the better the Minister will understand. It’s important to remember you’re likely one of countless meetings they have scheduled. The idea that the Minister or their staffers will set aside time to wade through the tome you’ve left is optimistic.
Your goal should be to distil the ‘what, who, when, where, how and why’ elements of significance to your organisation down to a double-sided A-4 page. Be assured, if they need more background on the issue, they’ll request it from you or their department.
Ensure you communicate your key messages
The number one mistake organisations make is leaving the Minister’s office with the impression they’re unsure exactly what they want done. How is the Minister supposed to know your key message and concerns if you don’t seem to?
It’s essential that before you write your briefing note, you define exactly what the issue is you’re addressing, and what role you’d like the Minister to play.
Make it contextually relevant
Advocates should also be mindful of the obvious question the Minister will ask themselves - ‘why should I care?’ It’s therefore important your briefing note outlines your issue’s contextual relevance.
How does it impact the Minister’s portfolio and the government’s overall budget? More importantly, how does it impact sections of the government’s voter base, particularly in specific seats that the government needs to hold or win back?
Advoc8’s electorate mapping tool, Advoc8 Maps, can underscore your organisation’s impact across these key electorates to the Minister’s office and help your briefing note stand out. By adding your custom data on anything from supporter numbers, investment, or job creation, Maps can provide a powerful visualisation clearly laying out your issue’s significance and the importance of keeping your message in mind after a meeting.
To discuss how Maps can enhance your engagement or to request a demo, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Format is subjective, but graphics can help
The actual format of a Ministerial briefing document is flexible. Some Ministerial offices have a preferred format - if this isn’t volunteered it can be worth asking. Obviously it should look professional and be formatted according to your organisation’s style guide.
With conciseness being key, info-graphics can quickly illustrate your key messages. These should be easy to read and understand, and not too detailed. Powerpoint slide packs are not ideal as they often contain superfluous pages that add paper density to your briefing note.
Once drafted, a good way to identify how effective your briefing note is, is to find a trusted colleague who isn’t necessarily across the issue, and ask them to assess the note as if they are a Ministerial adviser receiving the information for the first time.