Typically used in the public sector, briefing papers are short documents that include summaries of a particular issue and the suggested course of action to go along with it. In a business environment, a briefing paper may be used by an executive assistant to inform the CEO about an issue that will be discussed at the next board meeting, for example. In this case, the CEO may want to know the background and context of the issue and any next steps so that she can discuss the specifics with the members of the board. If you’re looking to write a briefing paper for someone in your business, be sure to keep it precise and succinct.
Format of a Briefing Paper
As the name suggests, briefing papers are meant to be short. Generally, you’ll need to keep your paper under two pages so it is easy to read and absorb. The purpose of a briefing paper is to inform the recipient about a complex issue, provide the context at a high level and include recommendations for what to do next. This helps him to be aware of the highlights in order to make any necessary decisions or complete any related tasks. Briefing papers are written in clear, plain language, and often include bullet points instead of dense paragraphs so they are easy to scan.
The Beginning of the Briefing Document
Include the name of who you’re writing the briefing document for, the current date and the subject of the briefing note at the top. Many briefing notes start off with a “Purpose” section, which is used to identify the reason for the note. This will help alert the reader about why this information is important to them.
The purpose of this document is to inform the president of the details relating to the police incident in our Saint Louis office on September 3. As the incident has become national news, the president may receive questions from members of the media.
Alternately, some briefing notes start off with an “Issues” section, where you can include any problems at hand that need to be solved.
The Main Body of the Briefing Paper
The body of the briefing paper should include a section on “Key Considerations,” which is where you can note the context or background of the issue, and any relevant information the reader should be aware of.
Things to consider: The perpetrator is not, and never has been, an employee of this company. He acted alone, without help from anyone in our facility. While employees did open secure doors, they did so under duress, and according to safety procedures. Three employees will be decorated by the Saint Louis police department for their bravery in helping to subdue the perpetrator.
Next, outline the suggested course of action in a “Next Steps” section. Here, you can include possible outcomes and scenarios based on the solutions available.
Help in Giving a Response
Some briefing papers also include “Speaking Notes.” This is where you can include specific points that the reader should address if they are giving a speech or holding a meeting related to the topic at hand. Instead of writing out a speech that they should read, it’s better to include short bullet points with the topics they should mention. This will help them to explain the matter in their own words.
At the end of your briefing paper, include your contact information so that the reader can easily reach you if they have any questions.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.