CommsCon 2016: Clarence Mitchell – The Hunt for Madeleine McCann (keynote)

In a series of highlights from this year’s CommsCon event, we look at how public relations professional Clarence Mitchell kept the Madeleine McCann story in the news for 8 years in this keynote presentation.

commscon2016-clarence mitchell-wide

Clarence Mitchell, the man who kept the story of the disappearance of three-year-old British child Madeleine McCann in the media for eight years, opened CommsCon 2016. The former BBC reporter discusses how he worked with the McCann family, international police forces, British government and international media to keep the story of Madeleine’s disappearance in the news – and what he did to fight defamation, handle daily requests from upward of 300 journalists and manage overwhelming expectation from all angles.

Moderator: Miranda Ward, public relations and publishing editor, Mumbrella.


  • 0:00 Introduction by Miranda Ward
  • 4:00 Clarence Mitchell takes the stage
  • 5:15 The case of Madeleine McCann: An exceptional story in a multi-platform environment
  • 10:30 Public perception
  • 11:44 The big picture: international police, international media, official leaks, the parents, friends, the governments
  • 14:00 Information leaks: the deal, the damage
  • 15:00 Blogging – in the wrong hands and with an agenda can do enormous damage
  • 16:00 Question everything, no matter what, as a journalist would
  • 17:00 A ‘pool’ is not just something you swim in: sharing information
  • 19:26 The newsroom and the tidal wave of content
  • 20:55 Lack of relationships between competing media: 200 to 300 media on-site and more in the UK
  • 22:30 Going legal: defeating misinformation, lies and gross defamation
  • 23:20 Keeping the focus on the search not the parents
  • 26:40 Keeping the British press in line
  • 28:00 The media pool: A daily soap opera with few checks or balances
  • 29:00 Journalists pressured to produce stories resulted in false sighting reports
  • 31:00 Calling on the government for help: Operation Grange, the Scotland Yard inquiry
  • 33:00 More than 100 articles deemed “grossly defamatory”; the front page apologies, payouts and trust fund
  • 35:00 Be straight with the media
  • 39:00 Meeting the Pope
  • 40:00 Kate McCann’s role for missing children organisations in Britain
  • 42:00 Media calls for 2017’s 10 year anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance
  • 44:00 The battle for hope: cases of women being held against their will
  • 45:00 Miranda Ward takes stage with Clarence for one-on-one Q&A
  • 49:00 Audience questions
  • 1:02:15 Presentation concludes

Sponsored by media intelligence company iSentia, CommsCon helps PR and communications professionals better understand their discipline and the issues the ever-changing industry is facing.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.