“Drone” would make a good runner-up to “selfie” as word of the year. The conversation about drones shifted from military strikes to home delivery after 60 Minutes did a segment with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about Amazon Prime Air – his plan to deliver packages to customer in 30 minutes or less using drones – unmanned aerial vehicles.
If you check out the website of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, you’ll learn that drones are used in all kinds of ways, for example, in Congo to monitor rebel activities and in Louisiana to control the destructive feral pig population.
Amazon isn’t the only company interested in drone delivery. UPS is testing (brown?) delivery drones. And since Google is experimenting with self-driving cars and investing in robotics firms, how long will it be before a Google robot drives up to your front door to deliver a package?
By now, you might wonder, what the heck do drones have to do with associations? Well, why do you think Bezos is investing in drone delivery? And why did he preview them on national television?
You can learn a lot from Bezos. He’s always a few steps ahead. Where he leads, the rest of us eventually follow, so follow his lead and my train of thought.
Brand your association as an innovative leader.
Pundits are full of reasons why Amazon’s drones won’t work. Does it matter? No, because like Elon Musk with his Hyperloop idea, Amazon has proven again that when it comes to innovative ideas, it’s the leader of the pack. Even if drones are regulated out of existence, the prototype is still pretty darn cool.
Who’s the leader of the pack in your industry or profession? If it’s not you, I hope it’s one of your members.
Is your association cool? I know, “cool” is style, not substance. But as long as you have the substance, why can’t you have the style too?
What is your association’s style? Have you thought about that? Style is a reflection of your culture. Do you have an innovative, cool culture? Are you far too professional for that? Is “professional” another way of saying stodgy, boring or old-fashioned? Have you asked your target audiences, especially younger prospects and members, what they think of your association?
Start proactive pre-lobbying.
Kevin Roose at New York magazine thinks Bezos used the 60 Minutes preview as “a way to nudge the regulatory debate about drones in Amazon’s favor.” The goal of this “pre-lobbying strategy” is to influence future regulation by getting the public’s support behind an invention of dubious legal standing.
Some associations spend so much time reacting to proposed legislation and regulations that they don’t focus enough on proactive advocacy. Not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of thousands on PR firms. Government affairs staff can learn from their marketing colleagues how to build loyalty, support and buzz for association goals.
I want it and I want it now.
Amazon Prime – the two-day delivery club – has grown from four million members at the end of 2010 to in excess of 10 million today. Forget two-day, now we want same-day delivery, like in South Korea where you can order groceries while waiting for a train after work and have them delivered by the time you’re home.
We’re a 24/7 society. Our mobile devices give us anytime/anywhere reading, shopping, communicating and more. Is your association mobile-friendly?
Our service expectations are higher now. We expect prompt answers to our texts, emails, Facebook comments and tweets. How well do you meet these higher expectations? What’s your response time to tweets, Facebook page comments and emails?
How well does your website measure up to user expectations and needs? How often do you test it for usability? People want to quickly find what they’re looking for. Too many clicks and you lose them. Consider these scenarios:
- A prospect wants to find out how much membership will cost and how their life will change because of membership.
- A member wants to see (in one place) any upcoming education (in-person and virtual) and recent articles, posts and community discussions about topic X.
- A journalist needs to learn more about X, and wants the email of someone to interview.
- A member is about to renew when that nagging question arises: what have you done for me lately?
- A Senate staffer is figuring out if they really need to worry about your support on Bill X.
- A member answered your call for political action and wants to know what else she can do.
How quickly and easily can they do those things?
Get your eye in the sky.
Drones are used in Nepal and Namibia to catch rhino poachers, in Indonesia to study orangutans and in Brazil to monitor illegal logging. They’re a real-time, reliable eye in the sky delivering data back to the office.
Instead of drones, associations use social media tools, traditional surveys and polls, and good old-fashioned listening to collect reliable, real-time data. By keeping a finger on the pulse of your membership, industry/profession and market, your association can respond with relevant content and education and maintain its reputation as the leader of the pack.
Imagine the possibilities. Instead of spending time and money on site visits, your association drone (a rental) will one day take video tours of hotels for you. I can see it now: the Association of Drone Fam Trip Operators.
Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who can’t wait to have croissants and sushi delivered by drone.