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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Keeping Madeleine in the spotlight
Dan Parkinson
BBC News

The McCanns face the media
The McCanns have faced the media almost every day

Their pain clear for all to see, Gerry and Kate McCann have appeared before the world's media almost every day since their four-year-old daughter went missing during a holiday in Portugal.

Gerry has read out clear and simple statements appealing for information about Madeleine with his wife, visibly distressed, often by his side.

Despite the ordeal of facing the phalanx of cameras and microphones the McCanns have appeared publicly in an effort to harness the media.

With one theory being that the toddler has been abducted and taken outside Portugal, it has been crucial to generate publicity as widely as possible.

'Unprecedented' coverage

At the same time, with the Portuguese police making few breakthroughs, the family has given the media something fresh to report every day, keeping the story at the top of the news agenda.

Experts have praised their handling of the media and have said it has helped fuel "unprecedented" coverage of Madeleine's disappearance.

Madeleine's face has appeared every day in the UK media and has also been shown in places as far-flung as Tasmania, Singapore, the US and South Africa.

Not only have the McCanns appeared before the cameras at the resort where they were staying in Praia da Luz, Algarve, they have also released a steady stream of pictures of their daughter.

Madeleine McCann in a pink hat
Pictures of Madeleine have been shown across the world

Photographs of "Maddy" - as newspapers have begun to refer to her - smiling in an Everton shirt or wearing a pink hat have become instantly recognisable in countries across the world.

Extended members of the McCann family in the UK have also played their part, giving media interviews and launching a chain e-mail campaign.

Philomena McCann, Madeleine's aunt, devised the e-mail, which includes a poster that can be printed out. People are being asked to forward it to friends and contacts throughout Europe.

On Wednesday Ms McCann travelled to the House of Commons to ensure more media coverage, where she lobbied MPs and met Gordon Brown.

Madeleine's face is now so well known, if she is taken out in public, there is a good chance she will be recognised
Paul Tuohy
National Missing Persons Helpline

Hours later Madeleine's uncle John McCann launched a fighting fund with former England rugby captain Martin Johnson to cover escalating costs in the search for her.

As part of the fighting fund launch, the website www.findmadeleine.com was set up.

The family and their team - which includes media and legal advisors - have also been helped by the powerful reach of football.

Appeals for information have been made on television by David Beckham in Spain and Manchester United's Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Before their match against Chelsea on Sunday, Everton players wore Madeleine T-shirts and the team's players have also contributed televised appeals.

The family, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have also been helped by the involvement of Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has offered a reward.

'Social issue'

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of the National Missing Persons Helpline, said: "The media strategy of the family has been a huge success.

"The result has been coverage on an unprecedented scale. There has rarely been a case that has created so much exposure and this, we hope, will help to find Madeleine swiftly.

"Madeleine's face is now so well known, if she is taken out in public, there is a good chance she will be recognised.

"We know publicity works because coverage we produce for other missing people helps us to directly find 10 of them every week.

"This case has raised awareness that 'missing' is a social issue that could affect every one of us.

Everton footballers in Madeleine tops
Everton footballers wore Madeleine T-shirts on Sunday

"We hope it has changed public perceptions - we now need the public to share support for all missing people and those left behind."

The family will continue to use football to publicise Madeleine's disappearance this week.

Her face will be displayed on a super-screen in the centre of Glasgow on Wednesday when fans of the Spanish clubs Sevilla and Espanyol arrive for the UEFA Cup final.

David Hodson, of the International Family Law Group, which is advising the McCann family, said: "The family have been very aware of the importance of the media being used as a means to find their daughter.

"They have not been giving individual interviews. They have taken a view they want to reach the maximum number of people."

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