Six Questions with our Anchor Team: Nicholas Klassen

In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing our Web of Change Six Questions series, which is designed to give you quick insight into the minds of our Anchor team. Today, we talk with Nicholas Klassen, co-founder of Biro Creative, a pioneering online creative firm that advises movement-leading organizations from around the world working for sustainability and social change.

Tell us three things about you that aren’t widely known.

  • I brew my own beer
  • I once crossed back into Canada using a Toronto Maple Leafs hat and a hockey card in my wallet as proof of citizenship... no joke. (But that was pre-9-11. Don't try that now!)
  • My favourite part of Web of Change is the oysters

Will you share your take on technology and social change? What specific trends are you paying attention to?

The lack of hard and fast rules on the Internet is both an opportunity and a constraint. That is, no one can be assured of how to make something "go viral" -- words that make me cringe. But the flip side is that we're free to experiment and improvise in an ever-changing landscape. 

I'm leery of trends, so I'm paying attention to the "trend" of people claiming that the rise in social media means that email is dead or dying. Because a lot of us don't buy that.

What’s important?

You can have all the latest technological bells in whistles, but if you don't commit the internal resources to working those bells and whistles, it's useless. For example, I'm continually struck by the knee-jerk desire for a Facebook and Twitter account, without the recognition that to make those engagement channels successful, you need to have staff actively working those channels, reaching out to constituents in meaningful, authentic ways. That takes work.

What’s hype? 

Same as that last point. Some people think that their mere presence on social networks will connect them with their audience. But clearly it's more complicated than that.

What’s next?

I'm particularly interested to see what happens in the realm of corporate cause campaigns. That is, "good cause" campaigns set up by companies, that aren't necessarily tied to the purchase of their product, or that may not even be explicitly identified with them. For example, I didn't get the sense the Hopenhagen campaign was terribly successful at engaging people, but I think it's interesting that a bunch of ad firms and corporate sponsors came together to fight climate change... just for the sake of fighting climate change. Ultimately it doesn't hurt for them to be seen doing good work -- if that's what they're after -- but it's not a conventional marketing tack.

What are the resources that you would recommend people explore in advance of Web of Change 10:10?

There's a lot of talk around the Biro office about "word of mouth marketing". Two good books related to that are: