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PR & Communications opinion

Chile mine rescue: triumph of human engineering

The Chile mine rescue has all the elements of a well-managed PR campaign. Did you notice the metamorphosis between the miners in the rescue chamber nearly 700m underground and the same miners that emerged out of the escape capsule? Wearing clean clothes, hardhats, clean-shaven and sporting US$400 sun glasses?
Did anyone notice the audio and video feeds that so clearly displayed the unfolding drama as the first rescuer arrived underground and the translators on hand to assist with the multi channel translations?

Did anyone see how efficiently the family members were brought into the holding area and waited patiently as the above-ground rescue team released the rescued miners from the capsule? It was perfectly stage-managed. [Pity about the unruly media stampede messing things up... - managing ed]

Didn't leave straight afterwards

And perhaps, more importantly, did you know that several government officials have been on site for the past 69 days? Not to mention that the Chilean president was on hand to welcome the first miner above ground, and he didn't leave straight afterwards, to attend to other matters of state?

The fact is that the trapped miners and the subsequent rescue mission have captured world attention. The Chilean government realised this and pulled out all the stops to ensure that it was projected as a caring government. Chile flags were displayed at all major focal points and large screen was erected for spectators and family members.

And all government officials were dressed in red track tops/jackets with the word Chile on the left-hand-side breast pocket.

Sincere and consistent

Now, before you accuse me of being cynical, nothing could be further from the truth. Good and effective public relations depends on one critical point. It has to be sincere, be seen to be sincere, and, more importantly, it must be consistent.

A case in point: the Chilean president's speech after the rescue of the first miner was brief, to the point and not at all vitriolic, and, most importantly, perceived to be sincere. It was most definitely heart-felt.

The Chilean government strategy was first and foremost focused on getting the miners out of the ground. Presumably no expense was spared to bring the right technology to resolve the challenge. That fact was evident as this was positioned as an international rescue mission. This operational focus was clear, as was the management of the media at the rescue campsite.

Tight management

The media compound was clearly designated and, save for one incident when the media stormed the tent belonging to the family of the first rescued miner, tight media management was the order of the day.

Getting competing international media conglomerates to agree to use one camera and audio feed would have been an interesting discussion. Having a video and audio feed in the cavern, with translators on hand, was inspired. As any television director knows, having multiple camera positions is essential in any good production. This is especially true of live unscripted breaking news television.

One thing is for sure - the raw unedited video and audio footage of the start of the rescue mission will never be equalled in any movie remake. The involuntary cry that emanated from the son of the first rescued miner will ring in my ears for a long time, as will the unscripted ceremonial handover of pieces of rock by "super Mario", the second rescued miner.

Perfectly pulled together and packaged

This is news, a human-interest story, a triumph of human engineering and a perfect example of an internationally coordinated rescue mission that has captured the imagination of millions of news consumers around the world... All perfectly pulled together and packaged to send a single-minded message to the world: "We care."

It reminds me of how I felt during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in June and July this year...

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About Angelo Coppola

Angelo Coppola runs his own PR shop (Channel Managed PR), when not looking for something worthwhile to champion. He specialises in tactical content, media liaison & strategic and tactical PR. He's an ex-financial journalist. Email him at , follow him on Twitter at @angelo2711 and read his musings at www.posterous.com/angelo2711.
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