from pickett&associates … exploring PR, social media and entrepreneurship

The Inside Scoop on the Oil Spill September 9, 2010

Filed under: Crisis Communication — pickettwrites @ 7:08 am

As the newly released BP report led last evening’s news, yesterday’s Carmel (Indiana) Chamber of Commerce luncheon provided some amazing insight into the environmental catastrophe of epic proportions.

Not sure if you knew, but a Purdue professor and expert in “Particle Image Velocimetry” (that’s PIV to the Mensa members out there) was the first to calculate the “more than 60,000 barrels a day leaking into the gulf.” PIV is a statistical technique that has been used for the last 25 years to measure flow volume; the young man, Steven Wereley, was the guest speaker for yesterday’s luncheon.

Rivaling Butler Coach Brad Stevens for the “delightfully unassuming, squeaky clean and youthful appearance” award, Wereley shared how he was first contacted by an NPR reporter as the result of a book he had written during a 2007 sabbatical on the aforementioned PIV. (Evidently the other three experts that came up in Google were German.) As a “dollar-a-day-supporter” of NPR, he found it sort of cool that the NPR science reporter would contact him and put his pen to a sticky note. Literally. He showed us in his slide presentation the chicken-scratched calculations that brought him to his startling conclusion.

What came of that seemingly innocuous NPR interview were 800 media “hits,” including interviews with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, NBC’s Brian Williams, stories in countless newspapers, etc. It also led to some meetings in the nation’s capital with the folks from the Interior Department and, not surprisingly, some major “pooh-poohing” from the folks at BP who were still contending the 5,000 barrels-a-day-number.  It was a fascinating tale of “what I did on my summer vacation” that had a bit of “Walter Mitty” thrown in for good measure (click the link if you don’t get the reference).

And, some good lessons learned. That which seems impossible to some is fairly easily solved by others. And that which is SAID to be impossible to solve by aforementioned corporations (because it was less damaging than rolling out the calculator and a PIV expert) is not only easily solved, but reveals a huge disregard of the environment, the immediate Gulf community and the American public that only fuels the fire for an already-festering distrust corporate America.

Never underestimate the power of truth … and a guy with a pencil and a sticky note.

It’s Thursday, and I’m off to “MillerPalooza,” the fashion show benefiting the Noblesville Education Foundation at Purgatory Golf Course. Before and after: client palooza!


One Response to “The Inside Scoop on the Oil Spill”

  1. htomfields Says:

    Several different velocimetry techniques are used at Idaho National Laboratory’s MIR Lab, including Laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV), particle image velocimetry (PIV) and stereoscopic PIV. Learn more about the world’s largest flow facility here.


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