Things to think about when doing publicity

What to think about

You know your loved one best, and should always be open when talking to the police or us about what impact publicity may have on them, or those close to them. This will make sure we are all working together and keeping your loved one’s best interests in mind.

If your person was experiencing mental health issues when they went missing, you might want to think about how seeing their appeal might impact them and their wellbeing. Remember there are lots of ways to publicise the appeal. You can speak to the police or us about doing a more low-key appeal, and not using things like digital billboards or big media articles if these wouldn’t be helpful for your person.

If your loved one is a victim of exploitation, you may want to talk to the police about whether publicity is a good idea. Unfortunately, not much research exists to better understand the impact of publicity on this group. However, we have heard concerns that publicity could put victims at greater risk. There is no clear right or wrong, as in some cases, finding them quickly and safely is the most important thing. Police should make a decision based on the intelligence that they have about your person’s case, and based on how you feel about any risk publicity might pose.

None of this suggests that you should or shouldn’t do publicity, but it is something to consider before you make a decision. It might be as simple as thinking through how your loved one will feel if they saw their appeal.

Who will see it?

It’s difficult to control the impact of publicity. We know some families struggle with appeals being picked up quite widely, and your person’s appeal being very visible in lots of places. However, others find it difficult that there isn’t much pick-up, and there’s no guarantee that an appeal will get lots of media attention or shares.

It’s good to prepare yourself for either outcome, and talk to us about your expectations and to find out how we can help.

Preparing for questions

Sometimes when members of the public see publicity appeals, they will want to speak to you or your family about the missing episode. This might be unwelcome, so it’s worth thinking about how you would deal with this, and how best to look after yourself in light of intrusive or difficult questions.

Keeping safe

It’s understandably very tempting to create extra posters or appeals on social media which include your personal contact details, in the hope someone will get in touch with you directly. For your own safety and emotional wellbeing, we advise you not to do this. Most people who get in touch will genuinely want to help and support you through this difficult situation. However, having access to you at all times means you will not be able to manage who you speak to and when. Sadly, some people are not so genuine or kind, and your difficult situation could be made worse by having to deal with upsetting calls or messages.

For this reason, we recommend using our freephone number 116 000. Our team are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and can pass information or sightings directly to the police.

Sharing the work

Seek help as much as possible when doing publicity, as it can be a lot for families to take on. Your community or loved ones can help to put up posters, and help to keep the search going when you need to take a break. You don’t need to suddenly become expert in all things to do with publicity, and you don’t need to do it all yourself, or do anything outside of your skill set. You can ask friends or family, or rely on Missing People to do all of this. That is why we exist and we hope to lift some of the pressure that families face.

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