NTSA’s Media Policy

Essential StandardsYour agency agrees to the Alliance Media/Public Relations Guideline: Agency will take active measures to ensure clients are not endangered, triggered, re-traumatized, and/or exploited in any way either through private or public agency communications or marketing, nor by inviting clients to participate in sharing their stories or images or creations

This table specifies both required and recommended attributes that are evaluated during the accreditation process. Those attributes labeled as required must be present for accreditation. Attributes labeled as recommended could be reviewed, but are not necessarily required, during the accreditation process. Each requirement and recommendation is further explained in the sections below.

Required

  • Do not post pictures, videos, stories, or any information related to clients currently participating in the program
  • Only utilize stories from former clients, who have been out of program for at least a year & are in healthy and safe stage of life  
  • Have conversation with client about why they are sharing their story, the circumstances and outlets of the publication, & any possible consequences of sharing story
  • Establish an expiration date for story/information that is created by the client, confirmed by agency, and does not exceed 3 years
  • Clients must sign a consent for publication form that confirms all circumstances of publication & the right of client to revoke release at any time
  • Conduct a risk assessment to investigate potential consequences of information being public, when a client’s Personal Identifiable Information will be publicized
  • Utilize a signed release of information when a client desires to include Personal Identifiable Information in publication
  • For publicly speaking on behalf of program, provide clients with coaching and a safe/support person on-site, debriefing with trauma expert after, and monetary compensation for speaking 

Recommended

  • Utilize stories of former clients, who are out of the program for at least two years & are in healthy and safe stage of life
  • Utilize realistic hypothetical or compilation stories for marketing, rather than individual survivor stories
  • Utilize stock photos, rather than actual photos of survivors
  • Have stories focus on empowerment of survivors, rather than specifics of exploitation 
  • Have survivors advise and review your media and marketing strategies 

Policy

In order to ensure that our policies and practices are always promoting survivor-centered services that empower and value the experiences, safety, and privacy of survivors, it is important that programs do not post pictures, videos, stories, or any information related to clients currently participating in the program and that the program receives explicit consent to share such information from any former clients.

A former client’s story should only be shared publicly once they have been out of the program for at least one year. The agency should ensure that the client is in a healthy and safe stage of life, where sharing their story doesn’t pose any safety concerns. Prior to using a client’s story, the program should stress that the client controls how their information is shared, in what circumstances, and at what level of detail they are comfortable with. It is essential that the client feels in control of the experience and their own story. 

Procedure

Public Post

When a former client expresses interest in having their story, image, or information shared publicly, there should be a conversation and confirmation between the client and agency regarding:

  • The reason for sharing their story
  • The circumstance and language of the publication
  • The outlets the client is comfortable with having their story shared on
  • Any possible consequences that sharing their story might create for the client
    • This should also include a conversation regarding how posts online, even after being deleted from a program’s website, can still be found and thus, have a permanency online that the client must be comfortable with. 

There should always be an expiration date for how long a client’s story or information will be used publicly, requiring the agency to get follow-up approval to be used after that date. This expiration date ensures the client’s story is not being used years after the initial approval, when the client may enter a time of life where they are no longer comfortable with their story being public. The expiration date should:

  • Be established by the client 
  • Be confirmed by the agency
  • Not exceed three years

If the context and circumstances of the agreed upon publication changes at any time, regardless if it is before the expiration date, the agency must get follow-up approval. For example, if the client agreed that their quote could be used in one of the agency’s public newsletters and now the agency wants to include the quote in their public brochures, social media, and website, the agency must receive consent from the client first, as this is outside of what was previously agreed upon with the former client. 

 

Public Speaking

When a former client agrees to publicly speak on behalf of a program, the following are strong practices for how to move forward:

  • Provide coaching for former client on the front end by a trauma expert and “safe person” for handling invasive questions, re-traumatization, and how to protect aspects of their story they don’t feel comfortable sharing
  • Have a support person on-site during the speaking engagement to offer support or intervene when invasive questions arise or the client becomes uncomfortable
  • Have a debrief with trauma expert to talk through the speaking experience
  • Be monetarily compensated for speaking, just as any other outside speaker would be compensated

Prior to using a client’s story, the program should stress that the client controls how their information is shared, in what circumstances, and at what level of detail they are comfortable with. 

It is essential that the client feels in control of the experience and their own story. 

Consent for Publication Form

Once a former client expresses interest in sharing their story or information and a conversation between the client and the agency has occurred regarding the specifics of the publication, the client must sign a consent form. The consent form that the client must sign to share their quote, story, picture, or video should include the following elements:

  • A confirmation of their preferred identification or anonymity 
  • A confirmation of the language or presentation of their story, quote, etc, including what context it will be used in and what purpose the publication is serving
  • An established expiration date for when the program can no longer publicly use the information and would need follow-up approval
  • Any expressed preferences or requirements from the client
  • A confirmation that the information being shared does not pose a threat to the client
  • A statement of the client’s right to revoke releases at any time
 

Personal Identifiable Information & Risk Assessment

Client stories shared publicly should remove any personal identifiable information (PII) that could put the client at risk or violate the client’s privacy. If an agency plans to use a client’s real name, as preferred by the client themselves, the agency should complete:

  • A risk assessment to investigate potential consequences of the client’s information being public
  • A signed release of information where the client agrees to the release of the personal information

 

Risk Assessment Procedure

First, it is important to identify the reason why the personal information needs to be shared. Whenever releasing information about a client, agencies should uphold the “minimum necessary concept,” which means that only the necessary information should be shared to accomplish the client’s intended goal and only for the amount of time that meets the client’s needs.

Second, the reasoning for sharing the information must be weighed against the potential safety and potential dangers it could pose for the client, if such information is publicly shared. Regardless of the benefit of sharing, if releasing the information could put the client in danger, the information should not be shared.

 

Programs should always:

  • Consider the most protective privacy option for their clients
  • Determine whether there is another way to accomplish the purpose of the publication without releasing the client’s personally identifying information or in a way that minimizes privacy risks and potential danger
    • This may include utilizing the client’s story without any name attached or by utilizing an alternative name, unrelated to any of their PIIs

 

Before publication of personal information, the programs must: 

  • Have a discussion regarding how the publication could impact the privacy, and therefore safety, of the client
    • Include survivor advocates or victim privacy experts within this discussion to ensure the interests of the client are prioritized
  • Inform the client of any potential risks identified within this discussion so that they can determine next steps

 

If the outcome of the discussion is to not include the client’s real name or any PII within the publication, then a standard consent form for publication of their story, quote, ect. can be utilized. If the risk assessment determines that utilizing the client’s name or any other PII would not pose any risk for their safety and the client is completely comfortable with the personal information being publicly shared, the client should sign a written, time-limited, and informed release of information.

Release of Information​

92a109c6406a43b5920022f88e982928-8-sample-client-consent-forms-free-documents-in-wo

A formal release of information must be utilized whenever a program is releasing Personally Identified Information (PII), such as a client’s real name, to a third party or to the public. A release of information should include these elements:

  • A confirmation of what personal information is being shared and to whom
  • A confirmation of the language and presentation of the information being shared, including what context it will be used in and what purpose it is serving
  • A confirmation that the personal information being shared does not pose a threat to the client
  • An established expiration date for when the program can no longer publicly use the information and would need follow-up approval
  • A statement of the client’s right to revoke releases at any time

Recommended Practices

The following are recommended actions your agency can implement to promote survivor-centered and trauma-informed practices in your media and marketing. 

 

Utilize stories of former clients who are out of the program for at least two years & are in healthy and safe stage of life

Going beyond the standard of one year out of the program, your agency can utilize stories of former clients who have been out of the program for at least two years. It should be ensured that not only is the former client in a healthy and safe stage of life but they have distance and independence from the program to provide an authentic look at how the program served them and how they have successfully transitioned from the program. Utilizing a story of a client who has been out of the program for at least two years can help guarantee that the survivor has had time to reflect on their experiences and are ready and comfortable with sharing publicly. 

 

Utilize realistic hypothetical or compilation stories for marketing

Your agency can use realistic hypothetical or compilation stories, rather than individual survivor stories, for media and marketing strategies. This involves creating a hypothetical story or situation for marketing purposes that is realistic to the population and clients you are serving. Additionally, you can create a compilation story that tells a common or general experience, based upon various survivor stories or experiences but does not focus on a specific survivor’s story or experience. This practice of creating hypothetical or compilation stories helps to ensure that your clients’ stories and experiences are not publicly shared or misused, which can result in re-traumatization. While a client may desire for their story to be publicly shared within marketing for your program, there is always a possibility that eventually they may feel differently and feel uncomfortable with their story having been used and shared publicly. Utilizing hypothetical or compilation stories, rather than real stories, will help ensure that survivors feel protected and valued by your agency because of their own intrinsic value and not just for the value of their story. 

 

Utilize stock photos, rather than photos of an actual survivor

By using publicly available stock photos within your media and marketing strategies, rather than client photos, you are protecting the identity and safety of your clients, whether active or former. Maintaining survivor privacy is incredibly important to making clients feel safe and secure, not only within your program but in their life after the program. By prioritizing the safety and privacy of your clients, you are reinforcing that survivors control their personal information and identity.  

 

Have stories focus on empowerment of survivors, rather than specifics of exploitation 

Your agency can embrace the trauma-informed principle of empowerment by sharing stories about how survivors have overcome, healed, and succeeded, rather than focusing on the story of their trauma and exploitation. By only focusing on the specifics of survivor trauma and exploitation, a marketing story can diminish the client’s power, strengths, and successes and publicly define them by their pain and suffering. This can be triggering and re-traumatizing and does not help the survivor heal from their trauma or empower them. By highlighting stories of survivor success and perseverance, your agency can help survivors to recognize that their story and life is so much more than the suffering they have experienced and can help empower them.

 

Have survivors advise and review your media and marketing strategies

Being survivor-centered means also acknowledging and being receptive to the insights and opinions of survivors themselves on how your program can best serve their needs. Having former clients or survivors, outside of your program, advise your agency on media and marketing strategies will only help ensure that your practices are considering what is best and most trauma-informed for survivors.  

Relevant Resources

“Media Opportunity: Considerations for Survivors”, Michelle Harrison, Ph.D., LPCC-S, NCC, Grace to Glory Counseling, www.gracetoglorycounseling.org

 

  • How do you think this speaking/media opportunity might impact your recovery right now?
  • What challenges do you see involved with doing this event?
  • What do you think you would gain from participating in this event?
 

Things to consider:

  •  Consider not doing any public sharing before at least having a full year of recovery (separate from the residential time). Honestly assessing where you are in your healing journey and how this opportunity may be re-traumatizing or potentially triggering.
  •  Consider what you think/are feeling being led to do as a leader- is this something you see yourself doing in the future (being a vocal advocate for other survivors) and want this as part of your future goals/dreams (to speak actively and even professionally)? How does it fit with what you are wanting to move toward in the future?
  • Do you feel obligated to say “yes” to share your narrative to help the organization that has helped you?  Do you feel free to say “no” if this is the best decision for you currently?
  • Do you feel confident about how your story will be promoted and used?  Will it be used to educate others and further the mission of understanding the anti-trafficking movement or for other purposes? 
  • Will the narrative accurately reflect your whole ongoing story?  Is that important to you?
  • If you decide to speak/record an event/interview, and your spirituality and faith are incorporated into your healing journey, consider eliciting the prayers of 2-3 close and trusted people.
  • Identify and ask a close friend (or spouse) who knows you well and you trust, that can travel and be with you for support and prayer before, during, and after the opportunity,
  • Be honest and voice what you need to feel safe and secure to do the event.
    • Examples:  need financial reimbursement for work missed to do event; need to be paid a speaker fee; need financial reimbursement for travel; need your companion’s food/travel expenses to be covered; need to introduce self, write own introduction, or see written intro and approve/sign 24 hours in advance;  need questions to be presented beforehand and agreement about what questions cannot be asked; need the ability to review any taped footage and have final approval before released and used.
  • Make sure you clearly understand the terms and the language used to describe consent and ask for a trusted source, preferably a lawyer, to review it with you.  How will the content be used and where and how will it be distributed?  Is the potential for damage or pain that could come from sharing your story acknowledged or identified within the consent/agreement? Who “owns” the rights to the material and for how long need to be clearly stated (for instance, if an organization will have your video testimony on their website for 5 years, what happens to the video after that?).
  • Make sure what you have voiced as needed, agreed upon, and consent to is written in a formal contract and signed by yourself and the person/agency requesting you to speak and you receive a copy of the signed document.
  • Consider using a pseudonym; consider what is on the internet and recorded for the long- term.  

 

Used with permission from Grace to Glory Counseling, Michelle Harrison, Ph.D., LPCC-S, NCC

Have a question about Accreditation?