Frank McClung

What you wish you had learned about your organization’s online presence for the next pandemic

My 12-year-old son has a hard time understanding what he does today and how he does it will not only impact his current opportunity and environment, but also his future ones. Not surprising for a 12-year-old.

He recently purchased a mini remote-controlled drone to learn to fly. It’s pretty amazing. You can fly it by line of site (just using the naked eye) or by dawning Virtual Reality type enclosed goggles with a small screen and fly “first-person” (as if you were actually in the drone). When you fly with goggles, you can only see where the drone camera is looking when you pilot the drone—not the drone itself. This makes it difficult to tell where the drone is in relation to the ground (the on-board drone camera points straight ahead).

His older brother suggested on the first day of flight that the pilot always have a spotter present to prevent losing physical site of the drone. Great idea brother! Saved his bacon on day one when the drone went over the house (accidentally). Yet, by day two, my 12-year had become more confident flying the drone with goggles and began ignoring this second spotter advice. He also didn’t really address ongoing operations issues like the battery falling off the drone on “landing”, the wind conditions that were impacting his flight, etc.

Fast forward to day two, the drone goggle batteries died unexpectedly during a flight. He was flying blind, quite literally, and lost track of the drone somewhere over an acre of dense woods. Despite an hour-long search by empathetic family members through snake and tick infested terrain, the drone was never recovered.

Of course, I was both sad and mad at him at the same time. I knew it would take him a long time to pay me back for the drone he just lost and to save up for a new one. I’m not an empathetic person by nature, but I could feel his pain. Yet, I certainly didn’t want to waste a good failure on his part or on mine.

As I examined everything leading to “the crash” of his drone, I found many causes that lead to the incident:

  • Lack of structured flight training
  • Lack of a flight plan
  • No emergency procedures or practice for a complete goggle power failure
  • No system to detect a low battery
  • Absence of a physical spotter during flight
  • Flying over a heavily wooded area where recovery would be difficult if not impossible
  • Not securing the battery on the drone so that if the drone did crash, the battery would still power the location beeper recovery
  • Not knowing the position of the drone in relation to the ground when power was lost
  • Environmental factors like a strong wind that could have carried the drone further than we realized once power was lost making the recovery area larger

There are indicators that should have been heeded before the crash either directly (have a spotter) or indirectly (battery falling off on previous flights). Addressing these potential points of failure could have  prevented the complete loss of the drone in future flights.

This story is a long way to go about asking what lessons your organization has learned during this pandemic about your online presence that you’ll wish you had learned during the next one. I am going to share the first lesson in this article and then others in my free e-newsletter.

Post-pandemic Lesson #1: Your organization’s website needs a “spotter”.

By “spotter” I mean an expert who can tell you where your website is currently positioned in relation to the “ground” of your market and business strategy. When you are “flying” your company, you are essentially wearing goggles that prevent a full range of vision. This person will guide your website to where you want it to be according to a plan. I’m not talking about an IT person who hosts your site and fixes it when it goes down. Or a website designer who chooses brand photos and creates nicely designed pages. Or a person to help you maintain and upgrade the Content Management System as new updates become available.

I’m talking about a strategic partner with your organization’s long term vision fixed in their sights. They may or may not have IT, development and design capabilities, but they most certainly must have expertise in developing online strategy and positioning your website to take advantage of that strategy. They will be able to locate your organization’s real position in relation to your goals. They can help you identify systems that are weak and find solutions strengthen them. They will tell you when your ideas are off track and how to refocus. And they will aide you in recovery should you crash.

It is important to note your relationship with a strategist needs ongoing. They need to understand your organizational focus and positioning and provide course correction recommendations as necessary. Don’t think that by hiring a web designer to design and develop your website you have fulfilled the need for a web strategist. That would be like buying a fancy new car and expecting the sales person or maintenance mechanic to help you understand what to do with and where to go with the vehicle. For those questions, you will need someone else entirely–a “spotter”, a strategist, an expert web consultant.

I’ll be sharing other lessons from our “drone fiasco” that apply to your organization’s online presence and the pandemic in my Contrails newsletter below:


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