Publicity – what is an appeal

You may see the word appeal used in lots of different ways whilst your loved one is missing. Sometimes it will be to explain posters or online adverts, other times it may be a press release from the police. The word appeal is generally used to explain asking members of the public to come forward with any information. To make it simple, most appeals will likely have some info about your loved one and at least one photograph. This page will give you an insight into what would feature on our appeals, or those you may make yourself and a bit about why.

What is an appeal

An appeal, regardless of whether it’s online, a poster or a larger campaign will usually have all of the following information. If you’re planning on making your own appeal, don’t forget to check out our guidance about what things to consider first.

What is included in the appeal

Name of the missing person
We usually display the missing person’s first name, or name they will go by, and surname. On some occasions, we will feature only the first letter of the surname on an appeal. This will help us to pass on any sightings we receive, to the correct police force.

A suitable photo
It’s important the photograph we use looks like your loved one, but also that it would not cause any upset to you, other family members or the missing person themselves. This is why we might ask you for a better photograph, especially if it’s very old, difficult to see their face or has any social media filters.

Area missing from
On all of our appeals, we do not use the full address that someone is missing from to ensure privacy for you and the missing person. Instead we use the area they are missing from.

Date missing
We use the date when someone was reported as missing, or when someone can confirm they last saw them, as the dates for our appeals. Sometimes these dates can differ, so when we send you a copy of our poster, that’s something we ask you to check for us.

Age at disappearance
We do not publicise anyone’s date of birth, instead we state how old they were when they were deemed as missing. This again is mostly for privacy, but it also means if the missing person gets in touch with us, we have ways of verifying who they are if we have been cautious about how much information is available publicly.

Other helpful information, and a supportive message
On every appeal, we invite the missing person to get in touch with us, that we are here to support them and not judge them about whatever has happened. These messages change a bit, depending on whether it is a poster or on social media. We will also use this space to highlight relevant things that could help find them which cannot be seen on the photograph, such as if they walk with a cane or have tattoos.

Our contact details
On every appeal, no matter what kind, we highlight the various ways anyone can get in touch with the charity seven days a week. If you’re planning on making your own appeal, have a chat with us first and remember to use our 116 000 helpline number rather than your own.

What then happens to the appeal

Once our appeal is live, we will discuss with all parties involved and agree what we can do next. Live will mean different things to each person. For some it’s an appeal on our website and posters sent to our partners, for others it may be something less public. These decisions would not have been made without you if we have your contact details, and they are not set in stone.

I don’t like the appeal for my loved one

Sometimes the police refer directly to us, and may not pass on your details. If you spot an appeal for your loved one and want any changes made to it, please get in touch with us straight away so we can work with you on it as soon as possible.


Talk to us

Sign up to be a Digital Search Hero

We have launched a regular email so that you can be aware of new missing person appeals and share them far and wide! We are also calling on all Heroes to be the eyes and ears for Missing People on the ground. Your sighting of a missing person could make a difference in a crucial time.