Government Communication as a Policy Tool: A Framework for Analysis


  • Michael Howlett BCPSA



policy instruments, communications


Government communication is now a large growth industry in many countries. Exactly what is meant by the term, however, varies from author to author. In this paper government communication is conceived as a policy tool or instrument, that is, as a means to give effect to policy goals. Three key policy-relevant aspects of the term are examined: (1) the link between government communications and the ‘nodality’ or information resource set out by Hood in his study of policy instruments; (2) the role of government communications in the ‘front-end’ of the public policy and production processes related to agenda-setting, policy formulation and producer activities as opposed to the ‘back-end’ of policy implementation, policy evaluation,, consumption and distribution and (3) the general aims of network management and overcoming information asymmetries which help explain the range of procedural and substantive policy tools used in government communication efforts. A model of four basic types of government communications is developed and examples provided of each general category. The implications of this analysis for cross-national comparative policy analyses of government communication activities and the evaluation of accountability and policy efficacy in contemporary governance are then discussed.




How to Cite

Howlett, M. (2009). Government Communication as a Policy Tool: A Framework for Analysis. Canadian Political Science Review, 3(2), 23–37.