The True Meaning of Memorial Day

By Katie Alberico, Senior Account Executive

As the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is a weekend many see as a celebration with friends and family. Rentals opening, shore towns coming back to life, burgers and dogs on the grill with the promise of warmer weather on the horizon. But Memorial Day is more than just a day or weekend for me; it’s woven into my everyday life.

I always joke that my first full-time job is in PR and my second is being a military spouse. When you marry someone in the military, you’re really marrying their job as well. So, this past October I can proudly say I married the love of my life AND the Navy!

Taking Up a Cause

After the recent F/A-18 crash off the coast of Key West, I was heartbroken for the families who lost loved ones, the friends who lost a squadron mate and humbled by the outpouring of love and support from our community. My husband flies a variation of the plane that went down, and I know we consider his squadron our family, so to see another family lose two of its members is truly heartbreaking.

I can’t change what happened, and I can’t prevent that from happening to me, but what I can control is how I choose to remember those we have lost.

This past Sunday, I decided to put my hobby of running towards a cause near and dear to my heart – The Wingman Foundation.

Their mission is simple, to honor the sacrifices of our fallen air warriors and support the families they’ve left behind. The Wingman Foundation provides critical post-mishap financial relief, funds memorials and remembrance ceremonies, sharing the stories of the fallen, and offers scholarships in their honor.

I’ve run races before – in fact, I’ve participated in Philadelphia’s Broad Street run three times – but lacing up my sneakers was different this time. With fellow VFA-34 spouses by my side, we set out to run the Valor Run 10-mile race in Virginia Beach to raise awareness and funds for the Wingman Foundation. As we crossed the finish line, I realized these friends I have begun to call family have become more then I could have ever imagined.

Tonic’s Personal Connection to Our Work

My involvement with the Wingman Foundation and running the Valor Run reminds me just how important these types of events can be to those who benefit from them. Through our work at Tonic, we hear over and over how patients can feel like a number and not a person, but events like awareness walks or advocacy partnerships bring people together that might not have connected or interacted before. Working directly with patients and caregivers provides us with a first-hand experience that is truly invaluable.

At Tonic, we have an opportunity to meet and empathize with the patients and caregivers we work with, tailoring activities to better fit their needs. As someone whose personal life has been touched by the work of an advocacy group like the Wingman Foundation, I can attest to just how truly meaningful it is to feel like they not only hear you, but understand you as an individual, and I am proud to work at a place that recognizes this.

I will certainly do my share of time with friends over the long weekend, but over the past year specifically, Memorial Day has taken on a new and more personal meaning. This Memorial Day, I hope you will enjoy your time off, revel in the warm weather and remember those who gave all so we can enjoy times like these.

To read more about our personal connection to the work we do at Tonic, like supporting World IBD Day and Rare Disease Day, browse our previous Tonic blog posts.

An Open Letter to Crohn’s Disease for World IBD Day

By Lindsay Barnes, Assistant Account Executive

Dear Crohn’s Disease,

I wish I could tell you to go away, to stop causing mayhem to my body. Do you think I enjoy this constant in and out, up and down? How much can one bum take? You forged your way into my gut without my consent. This World IBD Day, I’m here to tell you that no matter what, I’m in control of my life, not you.

When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in August of 2012 – a major category of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) – you didn’t define who I was as a person; you just changed the way I lived my life and what I considered to be normal. Going to the bathroom 15 times a day was my new normal. I wasn’t prepared for the long road that was ahead of us – the numerous tests, medications, surgeries, and pain that would follow my diagnosis.

In fact, up until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s I had no idea what it was, or that more than five million people worldwide live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. I remember coming out of my first colonoscopy wondering what my life would be like. What would happen if I had an IBD? Would I have this disease for life? And was it true what my doctor had said about there being no known cure and that nothing I could do would help me to heal? I was told there was nothing I could do but wait to see how my disease progressed. Now you really started to rub off on me; I had quite the potty mouth.

The funny thing about IBD (other than poop jokes) is that no two patients are the same. We don’t all have the same symptoms, the same reactions to certain foods, see the same results from medication or have the same body type. We’re all scurrying through a maze of trial and error, trying to figure out what works best for our bodies, while also trying to manage the emotional journey that comes with your poop life.

One thing I know to be true about IBD is that we all experience similar emotional setbacks. Trying to make someone understand that when I say I need to use the bathroom, means I need to NOW. Attempting to balance two types of relationships – the one with my better half and the one with my bottom half. The awkwardness I feel when I’m having a good time and suddenly you make me run to the bathroom. And one of the worst feelings of all is feeling so incredibly isolated due to my condition. Who wants to be with someone who spends more time in the bathroom than actually with their company?

It’s taken me almost six years to be able to talk freely about you, and what I do know now is that having a voice is better than living in silence. All of these thoughts, and these feelings of isolation, frustration, and even anger are all okay to feel. There is a way for my body to heal – speaking out about my journey with you in hopes of breaking the barriers for others who feel like they can’t speak their truth. Living with Crohn’s disease doesn’t have to be as crappy as it sometimes feels. By speaking out, my fellow Crohnies and I have the ability to change the narrative. You may not know this, but we see that this life is a beautiful place to be in when our heads aren’t burrowed between our knees.

At the end of the day, I want to raise as much awareness as possible for everyone who suffers from these ‘invisible’ illnesses.

Sincerely,
Lindsay Barnes, Crohnie

P.S. To my fellow Crohnies: Remember, there is no IBD path; it is important to carve out your own story, and find out what works for you. Sharing your personal journey or experiences with IBD can help someone else feel less alone, less ashamed, and more empowered to be a voice of change.

I hope others find the courage and strength to stand up to IBD and scream out – YOU DON’T OWN ME!

Happy World IBD Day – from one bum to the next.

Go Ahead…Copy Our Notes: Insights from the PRNews Measurement Conference

Co-Authored By: Kate Callan, Senior Vice President, Social Strategy; and Silje Lier, Senior Account Supervisor

Hundreds of PR professionals flocked to our backyard for this year’s PRNews Measurement Conference, a two-day workshop held here in Philadelphia. Presenters and attendees represented a variety of sectors and industries – from Fortune 500 companies to boutique agencies and academic institutions. What they have in common is a need to understand their audiences, measure their PR efforts and, ultimately, tie them to their bottom line.

The conference covered a lot of ground on utilizing analytics. Here’s our summary of best practices for strategic and impactful media measurement:

  • Define your key performance indicators (KPIs) early. What do you want to achieve? Agree what success looks like, and bake data measurement into the planning process of a campaign. If you don’t align on goals at the start, you can’t showcase success. This will also speed up assessment and reporting at the completion of a campaign/quarter, when there may be pressure or eagerness to provide results.
  • Map conversations, and identify super-connectors. We all know social listening is critical. Focus not just on the noisemakers, but identifying the influencers who keep the social media community members connected. These users will be more likely to drive a call to action among their networks, or make a key connection.
  • Create smart dashboards. Share key outcomes with data visuals pulling from online measurement tools, as well as native social media analytics, and understand what those metrics mean. Don’t forget to include benchmarks for context. (BONUS: Here’s a PRNews recap of Kate’s presentation from the conference, with a sample performance dashboard from Tonic, and other tips on native analytics and social listening.)

Presenters at the conference were asked to share a to-do list containing broader takeaways from each of their talks, which we’ve curated into a cheat sheet to apply to our PR efforts. Click the thumbnail below to view our full infographic for do’s and don’ts in data measurement – and share it with your followers.

If you would like to discuss our approach to analytics, reach out to Kate.Callan@toniclc.com. And to keep up with future events and more from the Tonic team follow us on Instagram (@Toniclc) and add us on Twitter (@Toniclc)!