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Communicating policy advice

Communicating advice effectively to a decision-maker relies on the art of good story telling.

To tell your story well you need to:

  • know your audience (usually a minister)
  • how best to engage with your audience
  • set the scene or context for your advice
  • sign-post key points – in a written briefing, this includes using active headings
  • use plain language, short sentences, the active voice and inclusive language
  • have a clear conclusion
  • set out next steps and recommendations.


Whether you are writing a Cabinet paper, a policy paper, an aide memoire or an A3, the Policy Project’s guide Writing for Ministers and Cabinet will provide you with tips for success and useful links to resources.

Dr Zina O’Leary spoke to senior leaders at an Australia New Zealand School of Government seminar in February 2015 on Authentic story-telling: adding persuasion to the policy tool kit. She talks about the importance of story-telling in supporting policy change and the role of story-telling in evidence-based policy.

Read the standard on ‘Advice’ in our Policy Quality Framework. It sets out the characteristics needed to engage the decision-maker and tell the full story.

You may also like to check out the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s Central government masterclasses. They provide useful tips and tricks to improve the way you communicate your policy advice.

Nikita Agarwal from Apolitical gave a presentation to the Canadian Policy Community on the power of storytelling to drive engagement for your research. To view her presentation, go to Conference-in-a-Box.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 5 July 2022

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