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Are Missing Person’s Crisis Firms Like the One Seen in Found Real? We Asked an Expert

Find out what crisis communications expert Molly McPherson had to say about Shanola Hampton's character.

By Cydney Contreras

Art imitates reality — right?

How to Watch

Watch Found on NBC and Peacock.

The NBC series Found centers on Gabi Mosely, a publicist who leads a crisis management team and played by Shameless' Shanola Hampton. Together, Gabi and her team helps to find missing people, many of whom are people of color who would've been overlooked by the authorities. 

As for how Gabi got into this line of work, it all began many years ago when Gabi was kidnapped by a stranger off the streets. Held captive in his basement and forced to live with the man — played by Saved By the Bell's Mark-Paul Gosselaar — for months, Gabi had to gather the strength to overcome him and escape. Determined to prevent another person from enduring such hardship, Gabi launched her own company.

But Gabi's methods of crime-solving are far from conventional. As revealed in the trailer, Gabi makes the risky decision to kidnap her former captor, who she calls Sir. Now chained up in Gabi's basement, Sir is forced into sharing his own criminal knowledge with Gabi, who is then able to rescue other missing persons.

RELATED: Before His New Crime Show, Mark-Paul Gosselaar Had an Unforgettable Guest Role on Law & Order

And while Gabi's approach is unorthodox, real-life crisis communications expert and public relations guru Molly McPherson tells NBC Insider that there are elements of truth to Found. Keep reading to found out more...

Tony Mallory (Bill Kelly) and Gabi Mosely (Shanola Hampton) speak during a press conference.

What does a crisis communications expert do?

In the series, Gabi draws attention to the plight of missing persons who have been otherwise neglected by authorities. This, according to McPherson, is what she does on a daily basis — albeit not for missing persons cases. Instead, McPherson explained via Zoom, she is hired by brands, influencers, or other figures who are in the midst of a crisis, which she defined as being an "operation interruption in your business." 

"So if you're dropping some project to manage this, technically, it's a crisis because it's chewing away at other resources and other things that you have to do," McPherson explained. 

In the social media age, the crisis often takes place when someone's reputation is potentially threatened, whether it be by a shocking event, like an affair, or an explosive news report. But these crises tend to be shorter than say, the business sector where a company may be trying to repair their image for months. 

Once McPherson comes on, she determines the scope of the crisis and what's at stake. After that, McPerson helps her client to "come up with a plan to acknowledge" the scandal. This typically includes issuing a statement to do just that.

If she's hired to help the "victim" in the situation, McPherson said that she would assist the client in bringing attention to the cause of the problem. As McPherson put it, if a company or person was seemingly at fault, "I'm just going to create a problem for them."

In Gabi's case, she goes on the news and social media to call out police for not devoting more resources to finding missing people of color. 

What Found Gets Right about crisis communication firms

Teen Gabi, Bella, and Sir seated around a dinner table

Though McPherson herself is not an expert in missing persons cases, she noted that Gabi's experience as a kidnapping survivor and her decision to enter public relations makes sense.

"One thing that the show nails is that people who work in crisis communication or who are drawn to it — the reason why they're so intuitive, and they're naturally good at — is because they've gone through some type of trauma or experience and they've processed it," explained McPherson.

People who work in this field of public relations, McPherson said, often have an impressive understanding of human behavior.

"In a sense, crisis communication people can read minds because they've seen the same patterns and behaviors so much with people going through a press crisis. It's no different when it's a real crisis," according to McPherson.

RELATED: Shanola Hampton Explains Why Gabi on New Show Found is the "Best Kind of Character to Play"

Whether a crisis communications expert acts as a spokesperson like Gabi depends on the expert. Back in the day, a communications expert might be the spokesperson but it's better for those directly involved to address the situation themselves. As McPherson put it, "people want to go directly to the source."

How McPherson Would Prepare for the Sir Reveal If She Was Gabi

Gabi Mosely (Shanola Hampton) seated in a dimly lit room

While viewers know that Sir is locked in Gabi's basement, the rest of her coworkers, followers, and the public are in the dark. If this secret comes to light, it could potentially be damaging to her reputation. So, how would McPherson handle it?

"Honestly, she could have like a TikTok," suggesed McPherson, who has a large presence on the social media platform, where she dissects current events in pop culture and gathers intel from her more than 400,000 followers.

Gabi could test out this method to prepare for the day when her secret comes out. McPherson continued, "She'll drop little inside secrets about how she uncovered this crisis or something. And she wants feedback, like, she might drop leading questions like, 'Tell me, what would you do if you were hiding something? What would you say, you know? And then she might look at the feedback."

To see how Gabi and Sir's crime-solving pans out, tune in to Found when it premieres on NBC Tuesday, October 3 at 10/9c.