Policy: Composing a Fact Sheet

Condense information into talking points for a congressional staff member

Background

Policy advocates on Capitol Hill monitor current events regarding topics of interest to their organization and create fact sheets to send to members of congress and their staff. Fact sheets summarize information that supports your argument in such a way that a congressional staff person can understand your viewpoint. Depending on your organization, you are likely to be proactive in sending your fact sheets to a congressional office. However, there are cases where they may reach out to you and ask for talking points.

The Exercise

For this exercise, put together a fact sheet analyzing the effects of a funding freeze of the Environmental Protection Agency. Your goal is to persuade your member of congress to vote a certain way and will send her/him a fact sheet supporting your position.The fact sheets are typically read by a legislative assistant or associate. Address the fact sheet to a staffer in the office. For this exercise, keep in mind that the member of congress and staffers in the office may have expressed skepticism of climate-change science.

Task 1: Identify issues the senator or representative cares about.
To find areas of concern, think about issues his/her constituents might care about in his/her home state. The fact sheet is most effective when it is specific and personal to the target audience. Think beyond the examples provided. Be creative!

  • Economic impact – Job loss. For example: defunding the EPA would mean that scientists funded by EPA grants might lose their jobs.
  • Personal impact – What does the representative care about? Gather facts about hobbies, previous organizations/involvements, and how they might be impacted.
  • Political impact – Polling data. For example: how would his/her re-election be impacted by the way s/he votes on this specific issue?
  • Financial impact – Who has contributed to his/her campaigns in the past?
  • Diverse roles – What else is the EPA responsible for besides climate change? For example, water safety. How would regulation of the EPA affect water safety and availability for San Antonio, or the state of Texas as a whole?
Task 2: Research
Search for information in one or two of the categories from Task 1. For the purposes of is simulation, use sources that have digested and summarized information rather than analyzing your own data sets. You may wish to consult federal agency websites for articles, news stories, or budgets, as well as polling data, congressional hearings, op-eds, and census data.Fact sheets typically rely on graphics such as charts and graphs. For this simulation, create graphics if you have time.

The Deliverable

Create a one-page document of bulleted talking points a staff person, typically the legislative assistant or associate, can use to make an argument on your organization’s behalf.

Fact sheets typically rely on graphics such as charts and graphs. For this simulation, create graphics if you have time. See example fact sheets from Boston University in the “Resources” tab below.


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Resources

Skills

For this task:

  • Clear, concise writing
  • Research and synthesis
  • Mental adaptability to a rapidly changing environment
  • Ability to condense larger amounts of information

Needed in this career:

  • Research
  • Communication skill
  • Writing
  • Problem solving
  • Leadership and teamwork

Additional responsibilities

A professional in the field of policy and advocacy may also:

Read more about careers in public policy in this resource generated by Duke University.

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Simulation author: Thi Nguyen, PhD
Simulation vetted by professionals in Boston and St. Louis