Media attention for Missing Person Cases

Launching a media campaign

Media campaigns can be time consuming and draining, but they are a great way to reach new people and they can uncover new leads. You must first check with the officer(s) in charge of the investigation that the case has approval to be shared in the media. Ask what information can be circulated and clarify where leads or comments should be directed if they require follow up.

Traditional media

If you are considering traditional media (TV, newspapers, radio) you might find these useful:

Writing a media release

A media release is a piece of writing that is sent (usually via email) to media outlets and journalists e.g. newspapers, television stations and radio stations. Journalists use media releases as a source of information to create newspaper articles, television or radio stories etc.

To help get your missing person’s story and picture in the news, it’s a good idea to write and send a media release (or a number of media releases over time).

How do I write a media release? An example and a template for a media release is available on the Missing Persons Guide, and you may have a friend or family member who can help. It’s a good idea to get another person to read the media release before you send it out.

Tips:

  1. Find an interesting angle for your media release e.g. the one-month anniversary of the disappearance, a potential sighting or the announcement of a reward
  2. Always have three key messages in the media release (three things that you really want people to know) and put these towards the top of the media release
  3. Put the least important information last
  4. Include quotes from a family member or close family friend in your media release to create personal interest (to save time, you can write these quotes yourself and then ask the person you’re quoting to approve the quotes before you send the media release)
  5. Put a photo of your missing loved one in the media release if you can, and use the same photo in any future media releases
  6. Always include the link to the Facebook page / Twitter page / or website (if applicable) in your media releases
  7. Write in short paragraphs and simple sentences

PR firm

Think about getting help from a PR firm or media agency – they’re not always cheap, but they can help you with key messages and attracting media attention. You might be able to find one willing to help you pro bono.

Appoint a capable family member or close friend to be spokesperson for any potential media opportunities. It is a stressful time, but it’s crucial that your message is clear, concise and consistent.

To keep traditional media interested after the initial buzz fades, think of a new angle and send out a new media release. Stories that pull on heart strings appeal to journalists, so plan for hooks like birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas etc.

Once you’ve checked that police don’t advise against media, and you’ve written a media release, you can decide on targeted media contacts.

Social media

Social media is a powerful tool. While it allows for instantaneous mass communication, you should consider the responsibilities and commitment that go with it. It’s common in these circumstances to want to reach out to the wider community via social media. Information shared in a public domain (like on Facebook) can jeopardize the investigation by identifying details of the case or about the possible perpetrator. Wanting to vent or share your sadness is normal but remaining patient, working alongside the police and not placing any obstacles in the way of the journey to justice is the best way to approach such a challenging situation. If you can’t use social media find some other ways of connecting offline or with a counsellor. Sharing the pain of not knowing can help. See: Support

The first step to take is to create a ‘brand’ for your social media campaign.

  • Use a short name for your campaign (e.g. Dan Come Home) that is memorable and easy to search.
  • Use the name for any online tools (e.g. [email protected]), Facebook (e.g. www.facebook.com/danielcomehome), Twitter (e.g. #daniel4home) etc.
  • Having a brand is critical for social media because it means that your efforts will all be linked; this maximizes the impact of the campaign.

Platforms

There are a variety of different social media platforms that can allow you to reach a variety of different audiences.

  • Facebook to raise awareness, organize events and keep your social network up to date
  • Twitter to reach a large audience in a short space of time.
  • YouTube to house media coverage and footage of the missing person. Videos can also be a fast and effective way to involve people in searching and/or fundraising.
  • Instagram to show everyday behind the scenes images and connect with a young and active audience.
  • Consider creating a website to house all of the information on your case
  • Keep a captive audience by sharing progress of your search efforts.

Storing your information

You will find that you need to give people the same information over and over again. It is a good idea keep everything in the one place for easy access. Dropbox is a great option. If you aren’t confident with the technology get help from someone who is.

  • Dropbox will let you store and share high resolution images, video, spreadsheets, press releases etc.
  • Create a public folder and share the link with journalists who may need high-resolution material (e.g. photos, video) for their story.
  • You will be able access everything you save to Dropbox (notes, photos etc.) from any computer or device with an internet connection.

Low-tech solutions (such as a folder on your computer) will work as well. The main downside is that you may have technical problems when emailing out large files and high resolution photos.

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