How to write with policy impact

Short description

Policymakers, editors and business leaders tend to be pressed for time and receive too much information. Researchers who want their arguments to influence policy must learn how to communicate key messages clearly. The seminar will cover how to write concise and accessible texts.

Target group

PhD researchers with little or no experience in writing policy briefs or op-eds.



Participants will learn how to structure an argument and formulate recommendations. They will gain an understanding of different publication formats and develop publication strategies to maximise impact and reach the right audiences.



This is a hands-on class. Participants will develop a style guide and practice how to recognise and avoid jargon. They will learn how to structure policy briefs and devise publication strategies and they will write their own op-eds and learn how to pitch to a news outlet. They will gain a better understanding of the cultural gap between policymakers and researchers, as well as the challenges facing researchers who strive for both impact and integrity.



  • Sophia Besch is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Reform’s (CER) Berlin office, where she leads the CER’s research on European defence policy, publishing extensively on European defence industrial cooperation, CSDP, German foreign policy, the effects of Brexit on defence co-operation, and EU-NATO relations. In addition to her role at the CER, she is also a Non Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. She comments frequently on the broadcast and print media and has provided analyses for The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Die Welt, New Statesman, TAZ, Politico, War On The Rocks and Project Syndicate, among others. She served as an expert witness for the UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee, the European Parliament Subcommittee for Security and Defence and the German Bundestag EU Committee. Prior to joining the CER, she was a Carlo Schmid Fellow at the Policy Planning Unit at NATO HQ and worked as a researcher for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. She served as Co-President of Women in International Security (WIIS) UK 2017-2018. Sophia holds degrees in International Security and International Relations from Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics. 


  • Ellen Thalman is the Senior Editor in the Hertie School Communications Department and is the team’s in-house journalist. She worked for two decades as a reporter, writing on central bank policy, business, politics and culture from Europe and the US, serving as Germany Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and as a freelancer for the Wall Street Journal, among others. As a communications consultant, she has worked as a writer and editor for the European Central Bank, the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Global Solutions Initiative, a number of foundations, NGOs, creative agencies and consultancies, and has ghostwritten op-eds and thought leadership for C-level executives. Ellen holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University SAIS and a Bachelor of Arts in German from Mount Holyoke College.