PR strategy – missing Milly Dowler

Public appeals Milly Dowler

When Surrey school girl Milly Dowler went missing on her way home from school it became imperative that significant publicity was generated to help with the search for her. I was responsible for devising the PR strategy and directing a small press team that ensured daily coverage of her disappearance in the national print, online and broadcast media.

The PR strategy

For the first few weeks we ran daily press briefings with a senior police officer outside Walton train station. Each day we developed a news package with a different angle on the investigation – examples included the release CCTV footage with the last sightings of Milly, police search activity, family photographs of Milly and appeals by celebrities such as Will Young.

Press conferences were set up with Bob and Sally Dowler and with senior detectives at key stages in the investigation. Special programmes were made with BBC Crimewatch and ITV Tonight. Other activity in support of the PR strategy included updating Surrey Police staff and partner agencies on developments, refresher media training for police spokespeople and working with Milly’s school and friends. Throughout the PR strategy was regularly updated to support the operational objectives of the police investigation.

Results of the publicity

The national media coverage generated over 4,000 calls from the public to the investigation team within the first three months of Milly’s disappearance. During this same period the small press team handled over 8,000 calls from journalists.