Online, print and broadcast media is a valuable way to raise awareness of a missing person and to keep the search for them active. It is a fast and effective way to reach a large audience.

Whether you choose to use the media is a personal decision. The experience of having to deal with journalists, answer personal questions about your missing person, and appear in the media spotlight is not something that everyone feels comfortable with.

If you do decide to use the media to help find your missing person, read our tips below.

Deciding whether to use the media in your search

  • Should you use the media?

    Different journalists have different interviewing and reporting techniques and styles. Whilst most journalists will be sympathetic, some may behave in ways which seem insensitive to what you are going through. It is likely that you’ll be asked probing and personal questions.

    You should think carefully about whether you want your circumstances, or the circumstances of your missing loved one, made public. It’s worth thinking about how this will make both you and your missing person feel.

    Some cases will attract lots of media attentions. For some others, it’s difficult to gain any media interest at all. This can be frustrating, but we will support you however we can.

  • Advantages of using the media
    • People may report sightings or provide valuable information.
    • The missing person may see or hear the message, and choose to make contact.
    • You may find comfort from feeling you are doing all you can to find them.
    • Other families in the same situation may come forward to offer support.
    • Repeated coverage will keep the search fresh in people’s minds
  • Drawbacks of using the media
    • It could feel overwhelming, intrusive or frightening. You may feel that your privacy has been invaded.
    • Speaking to the media can make you feel emotional, and having gone through it, there is no guarantee that your story will be used, or that it will be represented in the way that you would like.
    • The missing person may not welcome the attention or wish to be ‘found’ and it can be hard for someone who has been missing to then ‘walk back into their life’ knowing that this publicity exists.
    • Publicity may put vulnerable people at even greater risk, by forcing them further away if they do not wish to be found. This is a decision that the police can help you make based on their circumstances.

How to get going

  • Before you begin
    • Decide whether this kind of publicity will be the best thing for you, and for the person who is away. Consider what impact it may have on your life, on those around you, and on the well-being and safety of the missing person themselves.
    • If you choose to use publicity to search for your missing person, ask us to make a poster and web appeal, which you can use as the basis for press releases.
    • Discuss any plans you have with the police. Agree with them what information should be shared and what is best kept private.
    • Choose clear photos of the missing person. Give careful consideration before offering precious images for use by the media, as the memory of the image may remind you of when they were missing.
  • First steps
    • Choose the media outlets you want to approach. Considerations might include location, readership, familiarity, personal preference, or personal contact with a journalist.
    • If you want to contact a media outlet directly, you should find contact details on their website.
    • Phone calls might be quicker than emails. The best person to speak to is the News Editor, or someone on the News Desk.
    • If you can’t get through to the right person, ask for the name and direct line of that person, and request that they call back urgently. If they don’t, keep trying.
    • Remember that, although you don’t need permission from police to work with the media, it can make things easier. Particularly when it comes to press conferences and TV appeals.

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.