Physical Wellness and Nutrition in the Workplace

By Emma Swanson, Assistant Account Executive

Working in an agency setting, the apparent endless flow of client requests, team meetings and daily to-dos can make it easy to forget about life outside of the office between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Surprisingly, despite working in the healthcare communications field, it can also be easy to let personal health and wellness fall by the wayside when the next deadline is always steadily approaching.

Personally, after a long day at work, my couch is the only place I want to go, and when my day has been particularly challenging, I feel entitled to bring some chocolate there with me. Needless to say, work often gets in the way of maintaining a healthful diet and fitness routine.

Here are a few tips to help avoid the unhealthy habits often coming along with working in an office setting:

  1. Take a walk
    • A job in communications can demand a high level of mental energy and time, but it is often a fairly sedentary role. According to Johns Hopkins University, such inactivity can be a precursor for a number of serious health risks, like high blood pressure and heart disease. If you are someone who spends most of your day at a desk, try incorporating more physical activity into your day. If you can, try walking to work. Step away from your desk every hour to avoid sitting for several hours consecutively. Ask your management team about adding some standing desks to your office, like we have at Tonic, to give yourself a break from your desk chair.
  1. Pack a lunch
    • When your day is busy, grabbing something for lunch from the nearest restaurant, convenience store or vending machine can seem like the best option. However, as the CDC explains, if you plan ahead and cook your meals yourself, you’ll be more likely to choose the healthful meals that give you more energy in the long run. Stash some healthy snacks in your desk so that next time you’re craving an afternoon pick-me-up, you’ll be less likely to run to the vending machine for a candy bar.
  1. Participate in your workplace fitness program
    • It has become common these days for offices to host fitness programs, like team charity races, gym membership discounts or step competitions. Whatever the fitness program at your place of work, challenge yourself and your coworkers to get involved, setting goals and benchmarks for yourselves along the way. If there is a program you’d like to bring to your office, speak to your management team about doing it, like our Senior Media Relations Specialist, Kim Davidow, did when she began teaching yoga at Tonic after work!

While it’s easy to forego your workout or healthful meal after a difficult day, there are plenty of ways to incorporate healthy habits between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. What are some other tips for improving health and wellness in the workplace?

3 Reasons Pharma PR Pros Make a Difference

By Samantha Garcia, Account Executive

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. — Nelson Mandela

On Saturday, October 24th, millions of volunteers across the U.S. united with a common mission: to improve the lives of others as part of Make a Difference Day, an initiative spearheaded by USA TODAY. It’s refreshing that a nationwide event’s sole purpose is to simply remind us to reflect on how each and every one of us makes a difference in our daily lives – even if it’s as simple as throwing a water bottle in the recycle bin instead of the trash.

Working in healthcare PR, I definitely didn’t anticipate how much I could make a difference prior to coming to Tonic Life Communications.  While the quantity of work was certainly expected, it’s the quality of the work that has continued to exceed my expectations and made me realize why we do what we do.

So in the spirit of Make a Difference Day, here are three reasons why I believe working in health communications helps make a difference:

  1. Bringing people together. Our team worked tirelessly throughout the summer to pull off a first for our client’s unbranded educational campaign: host an in-person event where RA patients, caregivers, rheumatologists and even a celebrity who lives with RA can come together to openly discuss the big, fat elephant in the room – communication gaps between patients and their doctors, or as we (in the biz) like the call it, “shared decision-making.” All attendees came to the table with honesty and sincerity, not to mention the feedback on the event’s positive impact was absolutely priceless; one attendee even cried while sharing her journey living with a chronic illness and expressing thanks for an event that helped serve as a support group. Working on this event completely opened my eyes and taught me the importance and value of live, local, in-person events to connect directly with the patients our clients’ treatments help.
  1. Spreading the word. Research and development is a major focus at any innovative pharmaceutical company. As new therapies and scientific data continue to become available, it’s critical to make sure the word is spread – and that’s where we PR folks come into play. We help raise awareness of important initiatives through internal communications, press releases, media interviews, patient advocacy campaigns, and more. It’s nice to work toward the ultimate goal of getting helpful information in the hands of those whose lives may better from it.
  1. Looking ahead. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the holidays. I’m talking about business planning. Businesses across industries are busy planning for the next year, and as their trusted communications consultants and strategists, we join meetings and brainstorms discussing how to better the company and its customers for the year ahead. We healthcare PR professionals are tasked to research, present and execute innovative – yet realistic – ideas for our clients to help contribute and drive the business forward to success. This takes a lot of “looking at the big picture” and seeing what is not only best for the company, but more importantly what is best for their customers.

While working in healthcare PR certainly has it challenges, I find it to be extremely rewarding.  With every event planned, press release written, and business plan developed, we are making a difference.

Lights, Camera, Action: Five Tips for Using a Celebrity Spokesperson

By Dante DelVecchio, Senior Account Supervisor

We’ve all been there – a brainstorming session for a new project kicks off, and the first thing the client asks about is, “what about getting someone famous to be the face for this campaign?”

And while the idea might be rooted in visions of rooftop parties with Hollywood elite, there is a lot of value in enlisting a celebrity spokesperson to draw attention to a new PR campaign – or one that has started to stagnate.  A high-profile name can be an instant media draw, an engaging megaphone to your audience, and a credible testimony for your cause.

But as TMZ is often quick to point out, not all celebrities are created equal.  It doesn’t take many missteps to suddenly end up with a Paula Dean or Kim Kardashian in your hands.  A successful celebrity PR campaign is more than just slapping a spokesperson in front of a satellite media tour.  There’s a lot of work that is needed – both at the front end and throughout the campaign itself.

Here are five ways to get the most out of engaging a celebrity spokesperson:

1.) Pick the Right Person:  While Brad Pitt or Beyoncé might get every media outlet’s attention, most budgets don’t necessarily allow for that level of star power.  But truly, the caliber of the celebrity isn’t the most important aspect; it’s important to find a spokesperson who is right for your program.  Very often for a PR program, that means identifying someone with an authentic connection to the cause or product.  And if you can identify someone who has their own newsworthy events happening at the time of your launch – be it a new show, movie, album, or book coming out – it will only make your pitch to national media outlets that much stronger.

2.) Have a Clear Plan: You cannot just take an existing program, put a famous name and face on the materials, and expect the media to beat down your door.  You have to ensure that your spokesperson and program work hand-in-hand, with the components of the program seamlessly tied into the rationale for the celebrity’s involvement.  It’s also paramount to have very clearly spelled-out responsibilities and expectations for your spokesperson.  In Hollywood, schedules change quickly and a celebrity’s attention can be diverted easily; having very clear rules of engagement minimizes any additional conflicts or A-list temper tantrums that could arise.

3.) Find an Agent:  A good celebrity agent is worth more than the fees you’ll be paying the celebrity themselves.  They not only assist with the identification and vetting of a celebrity, but they also serve to ensure the spokesperson is adhering to everything that has been agreed to, no matter what last-minute requests or riders appear (green M&Ms and all).  They’re the “bad cops” that you’ll rely on at every step of the way, and the ones who can remind a diva where the paycheck comes from at the end of the day.

4.) Set Expectations:  When the bill for a celebrity spokesperson shows up, clients will immediately expect the world for the amount of zeroes they’re seeing.  And rightly so – it’s a big expense that can yield big results.  But it’s also not an immediate path to every major television show appearance out there.  Some big media outlets are increasingly cautious of paid celebrity spokespeople, and even if an interview is booked, they might not allow the individual to talk about their work with your program.  So it is important to ensure the client understands what is feasible and what challenges might arise throughout the pitch process.

5.) Engage the Audience: A good celebrity and strong media draw is good, but a spokesperson who connects with the target audience you’re attempting to reach is even better.  That can be everything from in-person events to get the community excited, or even having a strong social media component to support the campaign and get people talking online.

What other tips do you have for successfully incorporating a celebrity spokesperson into your PR campaign?

Happy ‘Back to the Future’ Day!

Today, the 21 October 2015, is the day on which Marty McFly and Doc Brown crash into the future as part of the time-travelling film trilogy.

Filmed in November 1989, Back to the Future Part II has become famous in future years for its attempt to prophesise what the technologically advanced world of 2015 would be like. Despite the fact that we haven’t quite cracked hoverboards just yet (although we are getting close) the prophecy of an increasingly digital future was not far off.

One area that has seen significant changes since 1989 is healthcare – but what health and medical breakthroughs have taken place in recent years that would really amaze Marty and Doc? We’ve put together our list:

Connected Health

1989 was the year that the first ever World Wide Web server and browser were developed. Today, smart devices and apps, which still work on the fundamental principles of web servers, are becoming increasingly important in the connected health landscape. In our pockets (or increasingly, on our wrists) is a personal trainer, diabetes expert, dermatologist and almost anything else we can imagine in the health and fitness world. These revolutions in healthcare have meant a shift from a static physician-focused setting to a data-driven and proactive world where the patient is empowered and driving continual evolution.

Dr Google will see you now

One in 20 Google internet searches is health-related, allowing users to access an unfathomable amount of health and medical information. Google was the leading source for health information in 2010 (78%), whilst other more traditional sources like FASS (the Medicines Compendium for Healthcare Professionals in English) represented the remaining 22%. This shows that medical data is becoming accessible to everyone, not just healthcare professionals.

The web has allowed patients to become more knowledgeable about their conditions, giving them confidence through well-informed advice and guidance generated from worldwide sources. This includes everything from care guides, sponsored content, medical research, charities and patient awareness campaigns.

Patient engagement

Patient advocacy and support groups on social media mean that patients no longer need to feel alone, as they can now connect with people from around the world who are experiencing the same illnesses and symptoms as them, regardless of how rare their disease may be.  Similarly, medical establishments can now engage with their patents rather than be gatekeepers of information and advice. In a world which is becoming increasingly more digital and screen-focused rather than face-focused, examples such as this show the power that digital can have in humanising medical and health experiences.

Robotic healthcare and artificial intelligence

With the world’s first printed pill already developed and Google’s partnership with Johnson & Johnson to create artificial intelligence surgical robots, will we witness an age where the patient’s experience from primary, secondary and tertiary care is wholly artificial? In today’s world, advances in technology have paved the way for the possibility of ambulance journeys to the hospital by self-driven cars, and not long from now we may see ‘robot carers’ fill the gap in the current shortage of nurses. Although exciting, it will be increasingly important to ensure that human compassion, patience and understanding is never lost within the healthcare and medical field.

The most exciting thing about digital health and connected health is that we are still in the early stages of its development. If this was the industrial revolution, then we would be at the stage when Stephenson’s Rocket was steaming its way from Liverpool to Manchester. In 2041, the same gap from Back to the Future Part II to today, ‘digital health’ will simply be ‘health’.

The Power of Imagery in Securing Broadcast Media Coverage

By Kimberly Davidow, Senior Media Relations Specialist

The word “imagery” holds an intrinsic power in the English language. According to Merriam-Webster, imagery is the “language that causes people to imagine pictures in their mind.” Imagery can transcend the imagination of audiences on a massive scale, through visual pictures or videos to the usage of descriptive language found in novels and biographies and even works of art. Imagery sets the tone of human emotion, too.

In healthcare PR, imagery holds great significance to the overall success of pitching client content to the media. If your words fall flat in your pitch, so will reporters’ interest. So, how do you create gritty newsworthy content from materials that are sometimes bland or complicated in nature? Visualize the story that you would want to read. Let me explain…

As a former broadcast journalist, I’ve received hundreds of pitches from PR agencies over the years. The emails flooding my inbox were essentially novels of content filled with meaningless footnotes and disclaimers. Unfortunately for those senders, the content provided in most pitches missed the mark – by a long shot. I wasn’t convinced that what those agencies shared was anything truly appealing or different than the content that’s been covered countless times by other media outlets. As a journalist, it was my responsibility to report newsworthy information that would impact my audiences in some capacity – either on a personal or professional level.

The moral of this story is that those pitches lacked imagery. Their content didn’t express why the information they were providing was not only important, but would resonate with audiences. To provide informative materials is journalists’ main goal. From my experience as a journalist to my role now in the PR world, I’ve found that the ideal equation of creating a successful pitch is as follows: Imagery + Authenticity = Powerful Storytelling.

When approaching broadcast media, here’s the rule of thumb: journalists won’t take time out of their hectic deadline-driven schedules to review pitches unless they can visualize the potential story. The media is constantly searching for visually exciting materials to bring to the forefront. For example, imagery I enjoyed receiving as a broadcast journalist included:

  • B-roll video that aligns with your pitch
  • Spokesperson interview opportunities
  • Photographs and infographics

For my fellow PR professionals, as you develop your next pitch, say to yourself “How can I take this content a step further? Can I tell a powerful story with the materials that I have before me?”

Here are my top four tips for approaching and securing interest from broadcast media:

  1. Keep your message simple and your facts short, sweet and to-the-point
  2. Offer interview opportunities
  3. Provide exclusivity to unique embargo materials
  4. Build positive relationships. Even if journalists pass on your content, acknowledge their rejection in a kindly fashion. They’ll remember and appreciate your professional response, especially if you intend on pitching other content to them in the future.

Lastly, here is a look into my former role as a broadcast journalist with WFMZ-TV:

PharmaVoice 100

On September 17th, members of the Tonic Philadelphia team traveled to New York City to celebrate the PharmaVoice 100 awards. Maryellen Royle, president, North America at Tonic Life Communications, was named to PharmaVoice’s 100 Commanders and Chiefs within the space. A feature of Maryellen in the magazine focuses on her energetic, creative and loyal personality, leading to success at Tonic both for clients and among teams. Attendees documented the night on social media, sharing photos and congratulating winners using the hashtag #PharmaVoice100.

The awards are a means to celebrate the men and women throughout the life sciences industry who provide inspiration to their peers, colleagues, and companies through their innovative and motivational approaches to addressing the industry’s myriad challenges. We couldn’t think of someone more deserving of this recognition than Maryellen.

Please find a link to the full article here and see more of what the team is doing on Tonic’s website:

4 Ways to Make the Most Out of a Medical Meeting

By Laure’n Gleason, Senior Account Executive

Over the years working in healthcare communications, I have learned that it takes a lot of preparation and focus to make the most out of a medical meeting. Medical conferences are as valuable as you make them. They provide excellent opportunities to converse with patients and collaborate with experts. The difference between simply attending a meeting and maximizing its worth lies in your approach.

Here are just a few tips for making the most out of your next medical meeting:

Preparation: It’s important to know in advance what you hope to get out of the meeting. Why do you want to meet certain people? Do you see possibilities for collaboration? With limited time, having specific reasons and goals in mind can yield effective results. If you are planning a private event, reach out to your contacts well in advance to secure their attendance and lock down logistics.

Networking: You never know who you’ll meet at these meetings, which is why it’s important that you’re prepared with a firm handshake and a little personality! Begin by bringing plenty of business cards to share. Exchanging tangible contact information is still one of the most effective ways of being remembered after meeting someone new. Take the lead by introducing yourself with a smile, and know what you want and have a plan for getting it. Promote interesting conversations by asking great questions and actively listening to what others have to share. After the conference, make sure to follow up via email. LinkedIn is also an easy way to connect after meeting someone.

Social Media Engagement: The growing patient participation at these meetings has made way for a strong social media presence, and the addition of more people into this online network helps get important information to the patients and families we work with every day. Twitter can be a great way to capture the small nuggets of information you and others gather while at a conference. After the conference, look back through your stream of posts for a journal of what you found inspiring.  And as a bonus, you can see what other people tweeted, which may further reinforce what is really important.

Post-Conference Learning: Most of us have been there: attended an exhilarating conference, met fascinating people and left armed with new knowledge—only to get pulled quickly back into our day-to-day, to the point that we don’t follow up or follow through. It’s important to share your experience and any new knowledge with colleagues, clients and patients. A great way to get a good sense of patients’ reactions is by reviewing blogs written about their experience. This is especially important if you held a private event. Personal accounts can help reinforce what worked and what didn’t so you can build upon those experiences for the following year.

What are some of your tips for making the most of out of a medial meeting? Comment below!

4 Grammar Mistakes That Make PR Pros Cringe

By Jenny Gallo, Vice President

Some of my favorite moments from last season’s Game of Thrones [SPOILER ALERT] are Stannis Baratheon’s continued preoccupation with the proper use of “fewer” and “less.” I recognize that this admission makes me a bit nerdy on several levels, and I am okay with that.

grammar 2–Game of Thrones, HBO

In today’s world of texting, Twitter and whatever this ( ) is, the line on proper grammar has become blurred, particularly in the workplace. While casual communications between colleagues and clients may allow for the occasional “brb” or double exclamation point, good old fashioned proofreading still has its place (not it’s place, please). Good grammar may not improve your bottom line, but bad grammar can make you look unprofessional and uneducated, and it is especially bad for business in the PR industry when communicating is our core skill set.

In recognition of National Punctuation Day, here are some of the grammar mistakes that drive us up a wall at Tonic.

  1. People seem to be quite confused by common homonyms and their spelling, as well as proper use of apostrophes: it’s vs. its; they’re vs. their vs. there; you’re vs. your.
  1. Use of commasgrammar
  1. Let’s talk about quotation marks. Yes to using them to note written or spoken words and titles of songs, movies and books. No to using them for emphasis, as this can indicate an ulterior meaning of the word or phrase in question.
  1. Finally, the oxford comma. Whatever your stance (I’m against), pick a side and be consistent.

In our world of words, how we use them demonstrates attention to detail, showcases good communication skills and generally makes sure people understand what you’re saying. When in doubt, consult the wise words of Weird Al Yankovic:

Happy National Punctuation Day!


Tweet Tweet – What’s buzzing in social?

As you may have heard through the Twitter-vine yesterday, Tonic attended Social Media Week London, which hosted presentations from the likes of Facebook, BuzzFeed and Misfit Economy. After having had a chance to wrap our heads around all the amazing info we received, we thought it might be a good idea to recap our commentary on Twitter by providing you with an overview of the four main themes discussed at #SMWLDN.

Be Authentic

One of the recurring words used at #SMWLDN was ‘authenticity’. People are looking for something genuine to connect with. Consumers know when they are being deceived and will automatically think branded content is negative. Just like us, consumers want to experience an emotional impact when interacting with content and that impact will not occur if the information is disconnected from their everyday lives. Brands need to take a more subtle approach in getting their brand messages across to pass under the radar of critical consumers.  In a nutshell brands need to be more approachable and stop trying to be ‘impressive’.


Co-creation was another big theme of the day – a notion closely linked to the push towards more authentic content. People are more likely to value, engage and share content that they have helped create; a phenomenon classed as the ‘IKEA effect’. A great example of co-creation is the The campaign received huge support  worldwide and is a perfect case study of the success a campaign can have if you ask people to participate and help create versus the standard marketing strategy of create and push. Now, for us PR people the importance of two-way communication is not news, but it is the notion of taking the engagement to a higher level than likes and comments, which we need to embrace. Ultimately we need to re-assess our content strategies to always include a level of co-creation.


One of the more interesting themes was that of frugality as a root to innovation. The notion of limiting budgets to create innovative and approachable content was an approach many agreed on. The argument being that small budgets encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking and thereby, force you to tolerate the unknown, opening you up to taking more chances. Key takeaway – set yourself limits and embrace the unknown


Brands need to adapt their content to individual platforms and audience groups. Now, this is not novel advice and I’m sure we can all agree that this is something we as PR people try to do in everything we do. However, due to lack of digital expertise or budget there are still those who try and navigate the social space by pushing out the same or similar content on all their social platforms missing the impact of individualised content on each channel. It is up to us to make sure that our campaign ideas and content allow for adaptation within a budget that is feasible for the client – a task that should spur on innovation if you ask #SMWLDN.

Although many of these themes are recurrent, they are constantly evolving with new campaigns and platforms providing us with new outlooks and strategies that help us create successful social content that ensures KPIs are met and exceeded – in the world of social nothing ever stays the same, and we hope our short overview has served as a reminder of that.

4 Ways PR Prepares You for Parenthood

By Kate Callan, Vice President

In honor of Working Parents Day (September 16), I wish I could tell you how much progress has been made in supporting working parents in the U.S. The fact is the U.S. is the only developed country that does not offer paid parental leave. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 percent of moms and 92 percent of dads with children under 18 work or are looking for work. That leaves us with the inevitable struggle of work-family balance since the workplace has not kept up with the modern family.

Before becoming a mom, I definitely anticipated that my life would change, but I don’t think I could fully realize the challenges of balancing two lifestyles until I was living it. Luckily, I’ve come to find that working in public relations for a decade has prepared me for life as a parent. Here are four PR lessons I’ve been able to use in my role as a parent.

  1. Planning is required for success. As my team knows, I am a BIG fan of lists and grids to track on every detail of our events and programs. When it comes to being a working mom, advanced planning is the only way I make it to the office each day. Gone are the days of waking to an alarm (unless you count my toddler) and leisurely drinking coffee before taking a train to the office. These days, prep starts the night before and requires a timed morning routine.
  1. Despite careful planning, many things are beyond your control. (Deep breaths) I’ve found the most stressful part of working in PR is that even when you cross all your “t’s” and dot your “i’s,” there are always multiple factors beyond your control. Whether it’s a spokesperson who goes off the rails or major breaking news on the day of your satellite media tour, there are countless times when you must cross your fingers and pray to the PR gods. This lack of control has prepared me for mornings when my sweet little boy decides that he does not want to wear clothes or shoes and barrel rolls around the room until I finally pin him down only to realize I now need an outfit change.
  1. Never let them see you sweat. When you’re faced with an unexpected turn of events, half of the battle is keeping a brave face and reassuring your clients and team (and self), that the situation can be turned around. When it comes to toddlers, they are like little mirrors of your emotions. If I show any sign of weakness, he can sense it and totally takes advantage.
  1. Praise may not come often, but when it does, it’s awesome. As an agency, a big part of our job is to make our clients look good, so we are often the ones behind the scenes executing programs or placing stories. When you receive a nice note from a client to acknowledge this effort, it makes your day. On a day to day basis, being a working parent can be exhausting and not overly rewarding. But when you’re little one suddenly runs over to hug you and says “love you mommy,” totally unprompted, it’s enough to melt your heart and make you forget how he gritted his teeth and yelled “No, mommy!” when you stopped him from running into the rosebush.

So, my fellow working parents, when times get tough, think back to that last sweet “love you” or hug and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you’re doing an amazing job.