The following is a transcript of a Conversation with Doug Haslam that aired on May 19, 2009.
My guest today is Doug Haslam. He is with Shift Communications but
today I’m talking to him not about his professional life but about some
charitable work that he’s doing.
Hi, and great to be here again.
Yeah, we do have a lot of these conversations for various of my
podcasts and it’s great to have you back. As I was telling you before
we started recording I promised to actually record this conversation,
because the last time you and I got together for a media bulls eye
round-table we had an energetic 35 or 40 minute conversation only to
realize that my computer hadn’t recorded even a second of it!
[chuckles] Oh, well…
So, in any event… Doug, I want you to talk a little bit about the Pan
Mass Challenge. It’s something that you’ve done for the last couple of
years and you’ve been using social media to promote your effort. So,
first of all I want you to tell us what the Pan Mass Challenge is.
Sure, and this is actually my second year riding it. Last year was my
first. It’s a two-day ride across a large part of Massachusetts.
There’s a couple of other start points but the ride, I think, is about
160 miles over two days. It’s actually, this year, the 30th ride. They
started in 1980 and all the money raised — every cent of it raised —
goes to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. So it’s to
research in treatments and cures for cancer.
So, basically… I mean, you do a lot of training for this too, right?
I mean, this isn’t something that you just can go out and say: “Ha, you
know, I think I’m going to ride for two straight days!” without having
done a little bit of warm-up.
Right. You know, as soon as I… This year actually I started doing
some spinning classes as well as getting to the gym. In fact, a friend
I met through Twitter, Les Page, has been Jessie’s spin class teacher
and they’ve actually generously let me crash their classes over the
winter but now that the weather is good I’m actually on the bike. Yeah,
I would say every weekend I try to get at least one long ride in, maybe
two, and then some shorter ones during the week.
I just keep doing that up until August and the ride is the first
weekend of August. You know, I just try to get a lot of miles and to
get used to biking and my experience last year was that the ride wasn’t
that bad after getting ready for it, so… Even though it was longer
that anything I have done.
. And you mention your experience sort of from the physical standpoint
but talk a little bit about your experience last year and some of the
people you’ve met and sort of how the process went for you.
From the ride itself or…?
Yeah. For the whole event, start to finish.
Yeah, sure. Well, what was interesting: I rode with one friend — I
neighbor I knew — and we actually got separated a lot. It’s just that
way when you ride with a thousand — 5, 000 really — people: you tend
to get separated among groups. So, basically, we all had name tags on
our bikes so, as we were riding, I would just look at the name tags and
see where someone was from and I would strike up a conversation, talk
about were I lived and where I was from and all that.
You know, you never know… because this is a pretty high-profile event
in Massachusetts you never know who you’re going to meet up with and at
one point I was actually noticing the New England’s Sports Network
truck kept going past me and then slowing down and then going past me
again with a guy hanging out with a camera.
I looked at everyone’s nametags around me and I realized I was right in
the middle of the wives of the Red Sox players and actually struck up a
conversation with Trot Nixon’s wife. Although he doesn’t play for the
Red Sox anymore, she still comes every year out to ride that and the
Red Sox of course are big supporters of Dana Farber so they have a huge
contingent called Team nine — nine as in Ted William’s number — that
rides every year.
On the way back I actually took the less
popular ride back last year to Wellesley and there was a lonely stretch
where I was just getting very tired and very slow and I happened across
a bunch Team 9’ers and they just said: “Well, bike with us!” and that
really picked me up.
So I’m talking to these people about what
they do and it was: “Hey, who are you, what do you do?” and one of them
says: “Oh, I’m a cancer researcher at Dana Farber, I’m doing
experimental bone marrow transplant research, like” I was: “Oh, OK.
That’s interesting. I’m in PR.”
And then I come up to a guy in the group and it’s like: “Oh, what do
you do?” and he says: “I’m the CEO of One-Stop-And-Shop” So, I mean,
not to single out people who are rather prominent, because there’s 5,
000 people doing this, but it’s just kind of funny: you never know who
you’re going to run into and who’s going to pick you up really and help
you get through it. There is a real collegial atmosphere among the
Well, of course a lot of people do get involved with the Jimmy Fund
because of their affiliation with the Red Sox. You know, it’s a lot of
great publicity for them and for Dana Farber.
I know that’s how I got involved years ago and it’s a great way to…
all the events that they have are really a great way to meet
interesting people, although I’m an entrepreneur and I like to think of
myself as pretty innovative but when you meet the cancer researchers
like you did, you sit there and say: “Yeah, OK, maybe an online
clipping service in not as cool as that.” You know? [laughs]
Don’t sell yourself short but, yeah, you just get kind of get that
feeling like: what you’re doing is way more interesting than what I’m
doing, as interesting as what we all do is. You know, it’s fascinating.
It’s just a whole weekend of meeting people like that.
Right, and one of the things I found out is… You know, I have gone to
a number of the Telethons that they do each summer in conjunction,
usually, with a Red Sox game and for a couple of years I was able to
sit with some of the kids who were being treated at Dana Farber and
watch a game. I remember one them, a few years ago, was a Yankees game
and I believe the longest regular season game in Major League history.
I was there with my wife and she said, about after the three and a half
hour mark: “OK, you know, let’s go now!” and I said: “No! We can’t go
yet! I stayed till the end of every Red Sox game. I’ve never left a
game early!” On top of that I said: “And look! All these kids with
cancer are staying. We can’t leave without them leaving, you know! That
would be wrong! I they can stick it out until midnight we can do it
too!” But it’s really amazing what they do there.
Yeah, one thing I think about is: I’m doing this because… To be
honest, because I like to bike and this is an event that allows me do
something good while I’m training with the bike and getting healthy but
it occurs to me, like: well, everyone talks about cancer, everyone
raises money for cancer.
But all around you, you see the effect that people raising money and
having research has done over the last, say, 20 to 30 years and how
treatment for cancer has become much more advanced, more people
surviving, more people surviving tougher types of cancer and a lot of
cancer survivors actually ride in the PMC which is incredible. So, I
mean, I can’t touch those stories. I just like to say I’m just a guy on
But they make you commit to a certain fund raising amount and that’s
fine. So I go about doing that too and that’s probably just as
difficult as the training if not more so.
Sure, and that’s actually a great segue because this is, after all, a
fund raiser and you may start it because you like to bike or because
you want to help people for all sorts of reasons but ultimately it’s a
about the money that’s raised. Why don’t you talk a little bit about
some of the things that you’ve done because I assume most of your money
comes from online fundraising, just by virtue of what you do and your
Yeah, well, I decided to take advantage of that since I’m very active
in social media and I decided to use the blog and FaceBook and YouTube
to house media and to use Twitter as a hub to just tell people about
what I’m doing and link to my updates.
So, from a content creation standpoint I would just occasionally blog
about my progress but I would also strap a camera, like a foot camera,
to my bike and do little videos. I started doing that this year. I do
little videos of training rides and try to keep it fairly short but
fairly interesting: maybe something funny happened or maybe there’s
something unique about this ride that I can point out in a five or
six-minute video and put it online, and then just let people know where
I am, and repeat the link for the fundraising so people can go there
and give money.
I found, last year, I raised about $3, 500 last year, and almost all of
it came through Twitter and Facebook. And probably mostly Twitter, to
be honest, because Twitter and FaceBook were pretty much the same group
at that time. And I actually ended up not hitting up a lot of local
friends and family, which I plan to do more of this year.
this year, it’s a bit of the same mix, but I found that Facebook has so
many different people on it now, now that it’s kind of a big
high-school reunion, and people from all different parts of my life are
there, so there’s a lot of different people seeing that stuff and
So there’s a whole different crowd. And I credit that,
actually, with my being ahead of my fundraising pace last year, despite
having to raise more money this year, because I’m taking a longer
route, and despite the economy just making everyone sick.
far, fingers crossed and knock on wood, I’m ahead of my pace for last
year, and then I’ll be able to make my minimum before the ride. So I’m
working on that. People are very generous and very helpful.
should add that something I’m trying to add this year, just to try to
get a little bit more creative about it and exercise some of the
content-creation and social-media chops is, as you know, because you’re
one of the generous people who have sponsored me, I’ve asked the people
who have sponsored me for their permission to profile them on the blog.
I’ll have a series, starting soon, of just profiles of people who’ve
actually donated, because those people are as important as anyone to
this whole effort, and just asking people why they’re donating to this
as opposed to something else. Is it something unique about them? And of
course, giving the opportunity for me to promote whatever they do,
whether it’s a personal blog or a business or something like that.
I assume it goes without saying that you apply the things that you’ve
learned from being a social-media communicator, a PR practitioner, to
what you’re doing here. But has the converse happened? Through last
year and this year, have you done things to help your fundraising
efforts or your awareness efforts, things that you’ve learned there
that you’ve been able to apply, or want to apply, to some of your
actual client work?
Well, I think, just in general, when I do things for the blog, and I’m
writing for you and doing things on Twitter and FaceBook, for me, I
always have room for error. Even in fundraising for the Pan Mass
Challenge, I have room for error and I can try things out. And if I
learn things, great, I can apply them to clients, or I can apply them
to make recommendations for clients.
So I’d say, in a general sense, yes, I’ve been able to apply that back
to my work because, more and more, social media and content creation
and relating to people directly becomes important to PR agency work.
That’s an everyday conversation now in our business.
I always preach that. Just practice. Get out there and do it for
yourself. And kind of by trial and error, really, you’ll figure out
what works, so you can recommend just the parts that work to clients.
Now, assuming that the listeners who’ve made it this far are now
inspired by what we’ve talked about and feel like they want to step up
to the plate and help out the Dana Farber Institute and the Jimmy Fund,
how can they go about doing that? How can they sponsor you?
Well, I set up links to my donation page, which is housed at pmc.org.
I should add, before I go on, that the people at PMC, including Jackie
Herskovitz of Teak Media, who’s doing their PR, have been very helpful
and encouraging to me this year as well, just because they’re really
getting into the social media.
@PanMassBike on Twitter, and there are other folks who are riding that
are on Twitter and doing blogs and on FaceBook and things like that.
So, yeah, they’ve been very encouraging and kind of cheering every step
of the way and linking to the blog and all that.
So, to go back to how people can help and sponsor me, you can just go to doughaslam.com.
And I have a big Pan Mass Challenge logo right there on the right-hand
margin. You can just click on that and go there. And I actually set up
a short link that’s easy to remember as well, which is a bit.ly link. So it’s bit.ly/pmcdh. So either way will get you there. And of course, any of you folks who can help, great. I appreciate it, and I thank you.
other thing I should add, also, is because of the economy, I know some
people who gave last year, for instance, might not have jobs this year,
or just might not be able to give as much or at all. And I’ve just
started telling people, well, help in another way.
And one of
those ways is to take the link and forward it to a bunch of friends,
and spread it that way, and then maybe someone else actually is able to
give. And you really contribute that way, too. And that’s potentially
very helpful. I hate to say the word “viral,” but the intent is to have
people pass it along.
A good virus. Not like the swine flu, right?
Yeah. Good viral, yeah.
I think that’s a great point, because there are so many ways that you
can be helpful in social media, and we are all getting hit up for all
sorts of different things to contribute to, particularly in these tough
economic times. So getting the word out and getting the message in
front of someone who may say, “Yes, this is the cause that I want to
support, I can support,” I think that is just as important.
But also, the other thing is, even if you can’t give as much as you did
last year, giving any amount is really helpful, right?
No amount is too small, probably.
No, no. Last year, I think I had one donation that was like $2, and I
had a bunch of $5 or $10 ones. Because they actually allow you to
download your sponsorship info, I think my average pledge last year was
about $45. But some people gave quite a bit more, so that kind of skews
it. I think a lot of people probably gave $25. 25, 50 was pretty
common. And it adds up.
Sure. Exactly, exactly. And if you give 5, 10, 15, 20, 50, 100, 1, 000,
whatever, it all helps. It all goes to a great cause. And it’s all
tax-deductible, right? So you’d get a nice little tax deduction every
Yes, it is. Yeah. They have a really great organization at the PMC.
They get it all down. They send you a receipt. If you give right
through the site, they send you a receipt right to your email address.
And if you give to me personally, I just make sure I register your
address, or email address, and they send the receipt so you have that.
I was going to say, 78 people gave $3, 500 last year. And so far this
year, I’ve raised–I should say we have raised–$1, 385 out of $4, 200
that I need to raise. I think I’ve had 31 people, actually, contribute.
And to me, it’s been a great response so far. I’ve still got a ways to
go, but it’s been a great response.
And what’s the dates, again, for this? When do you have to make your contribution by?
Actually, the fundraising goes all the way ’til the beginning of
October. I try to close it out by the time the ride goes on, just
because it kind of increases the excitement, and I find that people do
get more excited about it in June and July.
That’s no reason to wait, but those tend to be the busy months. And
probably not coincidentally, it’s the busier months for training as
well, so I’m probably posting more about it and talking a lot more
about it as I do more rides.
Sure. So we’re running up against the end of our time here, but I do encourage everyone to go to doughaslam.com,
click on the PMC logo, pull out the credit card, and make whatever
contribution you can. And if you can’t make a contribution, at least
Tweet his site so that other people might do so if they’re so inclined.
Thanks for joining me, Doug.
Thank you very much.