Steal this one trick from government to keep your executives in the loop.

Canadian Parliament

You might be asking right about now, “What the heck could I ever learn from government about communications?”

The answer, my friend, is briefing notes. 

Briefing notes are a government tradition and contain all the information needed for an executive (a minister) to make an important decision.

Using no more than two pages!

A briefing note is the vehicle for you to highlight risks and opportunities and make a strategic recommendation to the higher-ups.

The following are the sections of a government briefing note you should use:


This is like an extended email subject line consisting of one or two sentences that explains who you want to update and what you’re updating them on.


This provides the historical context. It may require some research and info gathering. It demonstrates that you have a handle on the issue. It signals to the executive that you understand the political landscape surrounding an issue.

Current situation

You unpack each problem, line by line, highlighting the risk each problem poses.


Provide three options explaining how to resolve the situation. Outline both the advantages and disadvantages of these solutions. It will require you to play devil’s advocate, poking holes in what may have previously been seen to be a surefire solution.


Simply offer your recommendation from the three options above.

Briefing notes are not just another route for communicating directly with your executive. You’re also showing that you’ve considered all the options in light of the context and are putting forward the best solution.

The great thing about briefing notes is that even if no one takes your final recommendation, you are still taking on the mental overhead needed to solve the problem.

That saves your executive’s time and energy.

Despite the mistaken perception that government might not be leaders in communications practices, they have refined how to communicate internally on important issues.

The business of government is risk-averse, yet politics itself is entirely risk-filled.

That makes the briefing note a tool worth stealing.