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How to write a briefing note
Everything you need to know about writing a best practice briefing note to politicians, public servants, board members, and other executives
What is a briefing note
- A briefing note is a 1-2 page bullet pointed concise summary document identifying key pieces of information relating to a certain issue
- Briefing notes often include a recommendation of action to address the issue.
- They are used to quickly inform decision-makers. Notably; politicians, public servants, board members, executives, etc
- Briefing notes are often sent to decision-makers before a meeting with a decision-maker.
- Example: if the CEO of a bank met with the Prime Minister to discuss a new government infrastructure investment program, the bank would send a briefing note before (and possibly again after) the meeting summarising the bank’s stance on the program. This would likely include a recommendation (supported by facts) for where some of the investment should go
Who to send it to
- The briefing note and meeting request should be addressed to the most senior relevant person attending the meeting or dealing with the issue
- The briefing note should be sent by a representative from your organisation who is of as close in seniority to the stakeholder as possible
- Example: Meetings with senior ministers, premiers, and secretaries of departments should almost always be conducted by the CEO of a company, whereas meetings with back bench MPs may be conducted by a company executive
- A briefing note would typically be sent 5-6 days before a scheduled meeting, and possibly again immediately after the meeting — accompanied with an expression of gratitude for the acceptance of the meeting
- It should be attached as a document to a short 2-3 line email explaining that a ‘briefing note is attached,’ and a brief summary of the issue it addresses
How to write (in order)
Call it a briefing note - this should be the title of the document and in the name of the document
Who it is to - use the full title of the addressee: “Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister”
Date - this should be the date the note is sent
Subject - brief one line on the subject of the briefing note
Who it is from - use the full title of the sender and the name of the organisation
Executive summary - this should summarise the issue at hand detailing exactly how it affects you and what further actions you require from the decision-maker
Background/key facts/history - this should give the decision-maker a history of the issue including compelling key facts that support your side of the issue. Abbreviated timelines can be helpful in this section
Outline any other issues or relevant information - any other topics you wish to discuss in a meeting should go here
Proposed recommendation/next steps - ensure you include a proposal/desired outcome, this will make sure there is no uncertainty in the decision-maker's mind regarding your request
Bullet points - the entire briefing note should be completed in bullet point format and generally should not exceed 2 pages
Objective of the briefing note
Three key principles to keep in mind when writing a briefing note:
- Why the issue is important to you – what it means for your business, staff and shareholders
- Why the issue is important to the stakeholder – how does acting on the issue align with the interests of the stakeholder
- What you want the stakeholder to do – outline an immediate course of action that is within the power of that stakeholder
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