The Crucial Role of Communication

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) describes the crucial role of communication in policy development and implementation.

Pal notes (p. 352):

In the early days of the development of the discipline of public policy analysis, there were many advocates of a purely rationalistic paradigm – policy analysis could be a “science,” informed by systems design, cybernetics, large amounts of good data, and the impartial application of social sciences, primarily economics. Almost no one seriously believes this anymore, but there still is a strong tradition of policy analysis that emphasizes the usefulness of hard skills. At this end of the spectrum, the emphasis is on the technical skills, but there is a nod (sometimes a strong nod) to the importance of communication.

Pal explains (pages 347-348), that scholars now recognize that:

“… apart from moments of solitary reflection, policy analysis and policymaking are all about talk in all its guises: speech, text, image, gesture, posture, persuasion, rebuttal, response, the occasional pleading, and even expressions of guilt. Policy is inseparable from communication, which is the lubricant for every phase of the cycle.”

“… even though communication has always been important to policy, it is clearly even more important today. Problems are more complex, there are more players with their wares on offer, and there is more noise and cacophony, as well as competition and uncertainty, to deal with. Digital media have also been a game changer: even as late as the 1980s, analysts could craft careful policy memos and feel that they had the corner on the research and ear of the audience. Today, information roils around 24/7 in endless pools, eddies, and currents. In this environment, the effective communicator is queen.

“Public policy is not only made; it is sold, and sold to a large number of disparate and different audiences. Internal to government, political leaders have to “sell” their ideas and agendas to their officials. Policy analysts have to “sell” their diagnoses and their proposed solutions to their political masters as well as colleagues (and enemies) within the bureaucracy. Ultimately, policies have to be “sold” to the legislature (if legal frameworks are required, but at a minimum to explain the government’s agenda). They also have to be “sold” to the voting public and to stakeholders. Each of these transactions involves communication of one sort or another, oral and written, and increasingly visual (websites, presentations, YouTube videos).

“… Complementing the logic of arguments is the art of issue framing, a deliberate technique for depicting a policy issue in understandable terms. It makes a great deal of practical policy difference, for example, on how the financial crisis is framed: as a result of “greedy” bankers versus “inadequate regulation” versus “wasteful” governments.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Consulting and Communicating on Policy (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 7 April 2017.

Image: Youngsub Chum, LinkedIn, at, accessed 7 April 2017.