What is a policy memo or policy brief? A policy brief is a document that outlines the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or course of action in a current policy debate. The intended audience for the brief is informed, non-experts, i.e. people who work regularly on the issue addressed in the document, but who do not do research or read expert texts. Examples of such people are decision makers, politicians, NGO workers, and journalists. Policy briefs are commonly produced in response to a request from a decision-maker. Alternatively, they may be produced by an organization that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. The purpose of the policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action. It serves as an impetus for action.
What types of policy briefs are there? Depending on the role of the writer or organization producing the document, they may produce one of two types of brief:
As chief trade advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R – KY] it is your job to prepare him for the upcoming Senate vote on the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA). To this end, you will draft a short policy brief that provides Senator McConnell with relevant background information on continental trade (i.e.: NAFTA), covers the main points of USMCA, and explains how the agreement might affect his constituents in Kentucky. The brief should also present policy alternatives available to the Majority Leader and recommend a course of action (e.g.: advise his Senate colleagues to vote in favor of/against USMCA).
So you are writing an advocacy brief. Your job is to persuade Senator McConnell to support / not support the USMCA.
What are some of the key aspects of persuasive writing?
1. Identify your audience - in this case, a Kentucky senator.
2. Identify what is most likely to appeal to / persuade your audience. Traditionally, we say that persuasion relies on appeals to authority, emotion or logic. For a policy brief, logic, facts and evidence are the basis of persuasion.
Things to consider when writing your policy brief
Some sources of information about Kentucky trade with Mexico and Canada:
Congressional Research State Exports document
Office of the US Trade Representative Kentucky Trade