This is what I love about public relations! On Saturday, Oct. 9, I received the call I’d been waiting for. The CEO of Layne Christensen, my client of 18 years, called to inform me that the company’s drillers had been successful in reaching the 33 miners in Chile, setting the stage for their dramatic rescue a few days later.
He authorized me to start our PR effort, so that night I wrote a news release describing the team effort of Layne Christensen and its Latin American affiliate Geotec Boyles Bros. in successfully drilling the rescue shaft.
We distributed the release internationally through Globe Newswire at noon Sunday, Oct. 10, starting an onslaught of calls and e-mails from media around the world. We heard from news outlets in Singapore, Paris, Canada, the BBC in London and Radio New Zealand. Calls also came from CNN, Fox News, Bloomberg, MSNBC, the Washington Times, and broadcast outlets and newspapers in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Kansas City and Denver.
We had to turn down Larry King and Al Roker because of scheduling conflicts, but did arrange interviews on Fox News Network, Anderson Cooper on CNN and many others. One of the drillers, Jeff Hart, almost became a household name.
The CEO, drillers and other team members even accepted an invitation to the White House, receiving official recognition on Oct. 28 from President Obama.
The definition of PR I’ve always liked is: “Doing good things and then telling people about them.” That was certainly true in this case. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share good news with a global audience numbering in the hundreds of millions. I’ve loved every minute of it!
Here’s the news release that launched our PR campaign:
Layne Christensen Drillers Reach Trapped Miners in Chile
It’s a Joint Effort of Layne Christensen and Latin American Affiliate Geotec
MISSION WOODS, Kan., Oct. 10, 2010 – “Plan B” worked. Winning the three-way race to reach the 33 miners trapped in Chile since Aug. 5, drillers from Kansas City-based Layne Christensen Co. broke through at 8 a.m. Saturday.
“This success required the extra special knowledge and skills only our team could provide,” said Dave Singleton, water resource division president for Layne Christensen.
About two weeks after the collapse, Layne’s Latin American affiliate Geotec Boyles Bros. brought in a Schramm T130 tophead drill. Layne also sent in two drillers, Jeff Hart and Matt Staffel, who had been drilling water wells in Afghanistan to support U.S. troops stationed there. Assisting the drillers were two Spanish-speaking drilling helpers, Doug Reeves and Jorgé Herrera, from Layne’s western region in the U.S.
Working as a team, Layne and Geotec drilled a 5-inch hole nearly 2,300 feet, reamed it to 12 inches and finally to 28 inches in diameter – large enough to accommodate the “Phoenix” rescue capsule. A cheer went up as families and rescue workers joined in a celebration when the drill broke through. “I’m on top of the world,” Hart told a TV reporter.
It took the drillers 33 days to reach the 33 miners. “Had Layne and Geotec not been there, it probably would have taken until Christmas for ‘Plan A‘ or ‘Plan C‘ to break through,” Singleton noted. “We cut more than two months from the original estimate.”
“It’s a first for our company to be involved in a rescue effort like this,” added President and CEO Andrew B. Schmitt. “It’s also noteworthy that we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary with our Latin American affiliates,” he said. In 1995 Layne merged with Christensen Boyles Corp. and became the joint-venture partner with the Boytec group of companies in Latin America.
Now in its third century of operations, Layne started in 1882 as a water-well drilling company in the Badlands of South Dakota. Headquartered in Mission Woods, Kan., a Kansas City suburb, the Nasdaq-traded company operates worldwide, providing products and services for the water, mineral, construction and energy markets.