Critical errors caused Bulley comms to spiral out of control

28 February 2023 | 2 min read | Crisis Comms
Clearly Team

The disappearance of Nicola Bulley was front page news throughout the month of February. The mother of two went missing in late January and during the ensuing 23 days until her body was tragically discovered the police force leading the investigation found itself in a communications storm that rapidly spiraled out of control.

This appeared to fuel the mainstream mass media’s appetite for sensationalism. At the same time, social media went into overdrive with a bevvy of ‘TikTok sleuths’ and slanderers coming to the fore – all eager to boost their follower numbers.

Penny Mordant, Leader of the House of Commons described Lancashire Police’s communication and handling of the case as “sexist” and “shocking”. Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, was equally scathing and denounced the Police for revealing sensitive information about Nicola to the media.

The family of Nicola Bulley lost patience and resorted to taking communications into their own hands – seemingly frustrated at how clumsy Lancashire Police were managing the situation.

So, what the hell happened here? How did the investigating police force get their communications so spectacularly wrong to the extent that they lost all control of the message and were – some might argue – the catalyst for the sensationalism and wild speculation that followed?

In the video below, Paul, Clearly’s MD, and Liz, Associate Consultant, discuss the communications aspect of this case. They do so by drawing on Liz’s experience as an ex-tabloid hack who has worked on a number of high-profile missing persons cases. This is a fascinating analysis of the Lancashire Police’s communications strategy and the role played by both the mainstream media and social media, too.