7.1 Media Strategist
It is the responsibility of the media strategist to organize
and direct all activities that will have an impact on the public
perception of Recovery Center operations. It should be understood
that the media strategist works under the Recovery Center Director
and any major decisions or announcements need the Director's approval.
The news media is a very important element to a successful recovery.
The child's face on the news may help the child be seen and recovered.
The media coverage will bring needed resources, searchers, reward
donations, etc. Let the media help you, but don't let them become
the focus. The child is always the focus. Police involvement serves
to legitimize the recovery effort in the eyes of the media. Coverage
is also important in letting people know about any reward.
Solicit the media's personal involvement in the case. Remember,
search activities bring media; media brings more searchers. Reinforce
this dynamic as much as possible.
- Take every opportunity to keep the missing child's face in front
of the public. Personalize the child's life in all ways possible:
home videos, school activities, special interests, hopes and dreams.
Continue this effort throughout the search.
- Establish relationships with news media personnel. Try to be
fair in the distribution of information to all media. Avoid favoritism.
- Create media contact lists with names, phones numbers, pagers,
FAX numbers, etc.
- Make family accessible to the media on a regular basis if feasible.
- Recruit two to three volunteers to be your media spokespersons.
These volunteers must be straightforward and honest with the media.
- You do not have to divulge all information. The media is aware
that some information is sensitive and must be held back for purposes
of investigation. Simply state that you can't discuss certain issues.
- Coordinate with law enforcement on the release of information
about search activities. Avoid any criticism of the investigation.
- Prepare a press release (See Figure:
Sample Press Release)
after 10 PM and FAX to
all stations. They will use this in the AM news programs. The Recovery
Center should present a timeline of ongoing search activities.
- Maintain a journal of all press releases, fact sheets, announcements,
and related community activities. See Appendix. Forward copies of
each of the above to the Historian.
- Be aware of potential misuse of press releases and sensitive
information by individuals for personal gain. Any information acquired
must be held confidential, and remains the property of the Recovery
Center. Security precautions should be taken accordingly. Be sure
that all pertinent volunteers have signed the Volunteer Registration
- Centralizing media briefings at the Recover Center will allow
law enforcement to conduct their investigation more efficiently.
Give the media a specific place to go to obtain information and updates.
- Schedule regular media briefings two to three times daily, customized
to media deadlines. For example, 10AM and 2 PM may be good times
for television, and 5 AM to 10 AM may be good for radio, especially
live interviews. Ask the media what their needs are. Be on time.
- Respond to requests by media for information as promptly as possible.
- During search activities, rumors will surface. It is very important
that they be dealt with immediately. Verify or discount as soon as
- Orchestrate media briefings to show search activities ongoing
in the background. It is important that you make television interviews
as visually interesting as possible.
- Recruit volunteers for live interviews. The media will want responses
and comments from a variety of sources. These volunteers might include
the mayor, police chief, core group members, and family friends.
- Advise news media of special search methods that might be of
interest to the public; i.e. dog teams, horse teams, thermal imaging,
- Encourage the media to participate in the ground search or to
accompany special search teams when appropriate.
- In the afternoon, plan the "media theme" for the next day. Examples
- Prayer Vigil
- Ribbon making
- Find <missing child's name> Day
- Look in Your Back Yard for <missing child's name> Day
- Look in the Park for <missing child's name> Day
- Organize community activities relating to missing child situation,
i.e., prayer vigils, church services, ribbon distribution, fundraisers,
etc. Notify media well in advance.
- Consider holding back non-critical but newsworthy information
for later release during slower periods of search activity.
- Maintain a library of television coverage and videotape the Recovery
Center's press conferences.
- Think about using programs such as Unsolved Mysteries, America's
Most Wanted, 20/20, and 48 Hours, to expand the scope of the search
to a national level. Be aware that control may be lost as regards
the way the story is presented.
- Anticipate the need to re-energize the media when it seems they
have lost interest in the story. Be creative.
- A daily fact sheet is good for reporters who come into the story
- Have a realistic, recent photo of the child to give to media,
no glamour shots.
- Encourage the police department to communicate with the media.
- TV must have something to show in order for the story to be aired.
- Radio needs soundbites and frequent updates.