A nifty guide on communicating with policymakers to achieve greater impact
1. Understand policymaking
Policy change is not based on just one type of evidence but from multiple forms from many sources. Policymakers have to consider how policy change may affect voting which might be why your research isn’t integrated.
Universities and charities need to invest in policy expert.ise Some universities now train staff in policy work with its Policy Academy, which is great. It’s also useful to have dedicated policy staff whose sole job is public affairs, as some universities (and many charities) now have.
3. Policy window
Find a policy window (or make one). If there’s a zeitgeist moment associated with your research, does your work have policy relevance? If so, contact relevant policy folk in that area to arrange a meeting.
Because policymakers are busy people, they tend to rely on their trusted advisers. To become one of these, try to meet them in person and build your credibility on the topic. Once you’re in their inner circle, they’ll then start to come to you.
Speak their language. A two-pager policy briefing is infinitely more powerful than a journal article. Focus on things that matter to them. Research into them, how they voted, what matters to them and pitch your work accordingly. Avoid jargon or explain it simply. Consider what their electorate is interested in.
Policymakers want solutions rather than problems. Yes, it’s critical to point out problems if these aren’t well known, but you’ll get more traction if you go with some concrete solutions that are achievable. Quick, cheap policy wins are the holy grail.
7. Plan ahead
Look for big events coming up or so that you can hook your report onto, or plan a parliamentary launch. When developing long-term plans for your research, integrate policy events (and communications about these) into your strategy. Good communications are absolutely key to helping create policy change.
8. Play the long game
Some policy change is quick but much of it can be very slow. Keep persisting, building your contacts, nurturing your policy relationships, increasing your credibility, feed into consultations and turn up to parliamentary events.
Work with others to amplify your message. Find other researchers, NGOs, think tanks or industry partners who are advocating the same thing and suggest teaming up. Their comms teams might also be able to help raise the profile of this work.
If you would like advice on how to improve your policy interactions, please contact me and I’ll see how I can help!