Four Key Takeaways from #BlogHer18 Health

Co-Authored By: Samantha Bolinski, Senior Account Executive and Kate Callan, SVP, Social Strategy

We had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2018 BlogHer conference where, for the first time, the focus was on health. Held in the uber-chic neighborhood of Tribeca, New York, the conference was swarming with women from all areas of the health and wellness online media space. The conference kicked off with a networking/cocktail hour followed by the 2018 Voices of the Year Honorees ceremony where the list of recipients included inspiring and revolutionary women such as Chelsea Clinton, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Tarana Burke, to name a few (ya know, NBD).

Following an epic night with several women who, quite frankly, changed the world, we were ready to tackle day two of #BlogHer18 Health! The agenda was jammed packed with sessions led by some pretty fierce, self-made influencers in the health/wellness industry, both on and offline.

Topics included personal stories from women who have overcome significant obstacles in their own lives and became advocates for others’ health, overviews of disease awareness health campaigns, engaging with and educating the media, using video and photos to enhance storytelling and how film can be a catalyst for conversations around health, to name a few.

As we reflect on BlogHer18 Health, here are our four key takeaways:

    1. Authenticity is key to engagement. Authenticity is what an audience craves because it shows vulnerability, particularly in the health industry. It’s all about being honest and true, and unapologetically you. Authenticity is what invites your audience to open up and engage via comments, liking and direct messaging. An engaged audience that connects with the true persona of an influencer or brand is more valuable than a huge audience that is not engaged. Influencers are savvy and those with a strong focus on authenticity will pull this through to the brands they chose to align with.
    2. Know your audience, and tailor content for them and each platform you use. In addition to authenticity, tailoring content based on platforms is critical in managing and maintaining a community. During BlogHer, influencers shared that their followers visit them for different things on different platforms and they tailor content to what works best for each audience. Knowing this, community managers must remember to identify the right place for the right content at the right time to be successful.
    3. Online connections are powerful ways to manage health issues. Today, communities of all types have been reliant on social media to connect with others going through similar experiences. Patient communities are looking to hear from fellow patients to help support and guide them on their health journey. While medical information from a physician cannot be replaced, online patient communities often supplement these discussions with real life experiences.
    4. “Your best idea doesn’t come to you while you’re texting.” Arianna Huffington said it best! Despite co-founding an online media group, Arianna has become an advocate for the need to unplug and destress in a world that is always connected. During her closing talk, she reminded everyone how important it is to disconnect and talk to your peers to conceptualize new ideas. Instead of emailing or texting back and forth, host a brainstorm or take a (device-free) walk. Do not neglect exercising your creative side!

For more from behind-the-scenes at #BlogHer18 Health, follow us on Instagram (@Toniclc) to view highlights from the conference floor and on Twitter (@Toniclc) to read the insights we heard throughout the day!

Lastly, huge thank you to SheKnows Media for a wonderful and educational experience!

Share a recap of our takeaways with this cool infographic. [Click to view full PDF]

3 Tips for Adapting to Facebook’s News Feed Update

By Kate Callan, Senior Vice President, Social Strategy

In case you missed it, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a big announcement on Thursday that will impact business pages moving forward. In a nutshell, Facebook is making a dramatic update to the News Feed algorithm (how they decide what content you see) to focus heavily on posts from close family and friends and will include very little from pages you follow. Pages can be anything from a large brand to local small businesses or even bloggers and advocacy groups.

In recent years, Facebook’s ever-evolving algorithm slowly reduced the number of followers that see organic page posts to a very small percentage (reported somewhere between 1 – 10 percent). This latest change means that even fewer page followers will be exposed to posts in News Feeds which is the primary way people consume content on Facebook.

What does this mean for those managing business pages? Here are my initial thoughts.

  1. Engage and explore live. While engaging content has been important for a while, the only type of page content Facebook said they will somewhat prioritize in News Feed is live video. In terms of organic reach, it seems video and going live will continue to be important considerations. In our experience, live does spark engagement, particularly when you are working with a notable personality or sharing exclusive information.
  2. Develop a paid strategy. In order for people to see page content, a paid strategy should be put into place if it hasn’t been already. We’ve made a shift to pages that we manage to streamline the number of posts and ensure all new content that we develop is boosted. If you put time into developing awesome content, be sure someone will see it! From what we’ve seen reported, the changes to page posts in News Feeds will not affect sponsored posts, so that should remain a reliable way to get your content seen.
  3. Consider Groups. Groups might become a new opportunity to cultivate the communities we used to be able to develop through pages. Especially in healthcare, we strive to create a sense of community when connecting patients with similar experiences. While the analytics and control of the message are not as strong as they are on pages, it’s possible that Facebook will evolve Groups to fill the gap left by diminished organic pages.

Want to chat about how this might affect your social strategy in 2018? Email me at

Tonic’s Thanksgiving Recipe Book

By Maryellen Royle, Global CEO

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” – Henry Van Dyke

During this season of Thanksgiving, Tonic would like to thank our colleagues and friends for another fulfilling year of new opportunities and growth. And we remain most grateful for our clients’ continued partnership. We hope you enjoy some of the Tonic team’s favorite holiday recipes as a token of our thanks.

View & download Tonic’s 2017 Recipe Book.

Top 5 Reasons Tonic Loves Working with Patient Advocates

By Jenny Gallo, Vice President

At Tonic, our mantra is “people, not patients.” As a healthcare public relations agency, we work to bring our pharma, biotech and medical device clients together with real people living with disease, from the “everyday patient” to leading online advocates. Through these efforts, we have gotten to know so many amazing people, and apparently they’ve gotten to know us, as evidenced by our nomination for the 2017 WEGO Health Awards as Best Healthcare Collaborator Company! Check out more about the awards here.

In addition to this great honor for Tonic, I was also asked to be a judge this year by WEGO thanks to Tonic’s reputation and history working with the community. I was so excited to get to know even more faces in the advocacy world as I checked out up-and-comers and saw how individuals and organizations are using social media to further their causes. Continue reading “Top 5 Reasons Tonic Loves Working with Patient Advocates”

PRofessionals in the Making

With summer coming to an end, our interns are headed back to school. While we will miss them, we’re excited for them to take some real-world experiences back to campus with them!

In honor of their last week in the office, we sat down and interviewed them about their time at Tonic this summer.

First, learn a little more:

  • Michael Milliken
    • Rising senior at Villanova University studying Marketing with a minor in Analytics
    • Fun fact? My mom played tennis with Tina Fey in high school!
  • Alexa Fabbri
    • Rising junior at Villanova University studying Communications with a Public Relations focus and minor in Sociology
    • Fun fact? I don’t get mosquito bites! (Did you know, there are people who have genetic alterations that allow them to avoid bites?!)
  • Alex Skinner
    • King’s College of London studying Biomedical Science
    • Fun fact? I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I have done a skydive and am about to do a bungee jump!

Why healthcare communications?

  • Michael – My mom works in healthcare so I had an initial interest, then the opportunity to work specifically on analytics across the agency presented itself. This interest stood out – to see how the many parts of an agency come together across PR and measurement.
  • Alexa – My entire family has professional healthcare experience so I wanted to see if I would like it as well.
  • Alex – I love science, but don’t enjoy lab research. I thought healthcare communications would be a great way to stay in science, minus the lab coat.

What was your impression of Tonic on your first day?

  • Michael – At my last job, every day I made the coffee so when I saw the Keurig I thought, “what are they going to make me do?!”
  • Alexa – After I walked in and was introduced to everyone I sat down and just thought, “What now? What do you do for lunch?”
  • Alex – I thought I might just be making teas all day but it was in fact the complete opposite! Everyone was really lovely and helpful and couldn’t wait to get me involved in all their different projects.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from working at a PR agency?

  • Michael – I learned the teams all work together, always bouncing ideas off one another. Compared to other roles, the environment at a PR agency is more collaborative.
  • Alexa – I didn’t realize how many different disease states Tonic worked in. I always thought there would be a few that everyone focused on but every time I was handed a new project, it was a new disease!
  • Alex –  I really enjoyed leaning more about all the different drugs and diseases. I had no idea that Tonic would work on so many projects in one go so it was great to work on loads of different things during my time here.

What was your favorite thing you worked on in your time at Tonic?

  • Michael – I enjoyed gaining experiences from various databases and platforms that otherwise I would not have access to. I could use these tools to look into advocacy groups and read real patient stories. It was cool to see their stories and the large patient communities.
  • Alexa – My favorite thing was working on the pharma research and development side. It was meaningful and felt worthwhile to be part of something that could save a life or change the world in the future.
  • Alex – I really enjoyed the patient and consumer side of the work as everything I have done before has been very data focused, so it’s been great doing something so different.

What is your advice for others who are thinking about interning or careers in PR? 

  • Michael – A PR agency isn’t just PR! There is more to it than just writing and PR, a lot of work goes into the company to make it successful, so don’t discount the opportunity.
  • Alexa – To have an open mind! I had no idea what research & development was my first day but I have learned a ton, you never know what you’re going to learn and do!
  • Alex – PR is so much more than what you think it is. Every day is different and there is loads going on. I had no idea how much PR agencies actually did!

Any parting tips to future interns or classmates looking at internships?

  • Michael – Do your time sheet! And don’t sign up for too many Google alerts.
  • Alexa – Always check your emails!
  • Alex – If you want to get some experience don’t be scared to just email some companies and see if they have any internships available, that’s exactly how I got mine at Tonic!


How to Pitch Regional Broadcast Media

By Melissa Maycott, Media Relations Manager

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon program hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA). The program, which was entitled “Broadcast Media Panel Offers Tips for Getting Your Stories on the Air,” featured some of the Philadelphia-region’s most notable radio and television news personalities including the producer of FOX29 News, Jodi Harris (@jodi_harris), managing editor at CBS3 Eyewitness News, Steve McKenzie, and long-time on-air personality at KYW Newsradio, Paul Kurtz (@Kurtzpaul).

Amid a crowd of roughly 75 of my PR peers (some of whom were familiar faces and some I’d just met), I listened intently as the panel of broadcast experts sitting in front of me shared their own personal experiences interacting with PR professionals pleading to get their story on the air in addition to their tips for “us” on how to make that happen.

Below and here, depicted in this educational infographic are my key takeaways from the event.

Just remember, every #PRFail – and believe me, I’ve had plenty throughout my almost decade-long career as a PR professional — can be looked upon as a learning experience to help you continue to grow in your practice. The key is recognizing when you’ve made a mistake and how you could have approached the situation better, and putting that insight to good use as you pick up the phone to pitch your next big story.

To learn how Tonic can help support your media pitching needs, contact me at


Content, the New Buzzword to Some, but Tried and True for PR

By Maryellen Royle, Global CEO, and Brianna Rooney, Account Executive

Lately across the public relations (PR), advertising and digital space, we hear more and more about how ‘content is king.’ We have found ourselves saying yes, it always has been, and it is finally becoming more recognized as a core offering that the PR discipline brings to the marketing mix.

If you search “content” on PR Daily, there are over 5,000 results for the word. An insane amount, but not surprising given the amount of content we consume each day (and minute), according to an infographic found here from Domo.

Why is content creation so synonymous with PR?  Mostly because writing is an innate skill of the majority of all PR professionals.  Because content has been the topic of so many conversations lately, we took to the office to find out what Tonic team members studied in college and viewed as their greatest strength to the agency and our clients.

Nearly all of our staff come from a writing background, whether it is PR, communications, English or journalism, we love writing! Even with different majors, content creation is the one thing we have in common. In short-form tweets, long-form bylined articles, with heavy science and sometimes funny memes, it is at the core of what we do day in and day out. And better yet, the content we write is balanced editorial based on real-world experiences and/or referenced facts. Interviews with experts or consumers, interpretation of research or surveys, analysis/synopsis of multiple points of views help us to build stories that are responsible, believable and meaningful to our intended audiences.

Because content is what we do and who we are, here are three basic tips to create great content:

  1. Know your audience – with content available on many platforms, short- and long-form, it is important to know and understand your audience. If you are reaching a medical community, a scientific white paper may be the best for reaching your audience – but if you want to reach a teenager, a 140 character tweet is best.
  2. Be timely – the same as knowing your audience, learn how to deliver your content strategically. Yes, you can have a perfectly written blog post or tweet, but if you post at the wrong time or on the wrong forum and no one sees your post, your content goes to waste. In the healthcare space, the goal of our content is to make sure we are meeting the patient at the right moment in their journey. This entails mid-day content when a patient may be in the doctor’s office waiting room or a Sunday evening where we find many of the population online, unwinding and preparing for the week ahead.
  3. Be accurate, relevant and actionable – make sure your content is accurate, understand what is going on in the space where you’re distributing your content and tell the reader what to do with your content. Remember, you’re competing with a lot of other companies and brands to pique the interest and inspire action among some of the same audiences. Your content must evoke emotion and be moving enough to effectively engage audiences.

So, next time you find yourself desiring more or better “content”, make sure to call your PR colleagues.  And if you if you’re stuck and need help – tweet or email Tonic, because we’d love to help.

A Tonic Thank You

By: Maryellen Royle, Global CEO

As we embark on the season of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to celebrate.

For our Tonic team, we have seen our business and team grow consistently over the past 5+ years.  This year marked new growth milestones for us including the ability to expand into brand new US office space to accommodate our growing team.

As we reflect on our past and look forward to our future – one thing is crystal clear to us – that our success is a direct reflection of the strong professional bonds we have made over many years.  Whether you are a past or current client, an old colleague or friend, or one of our many new acquaintances – you have helped shape us.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thank all our professional partners and friends and we ‘celebrate’ our past, present and future together.




Redefining Success: How to Maximize Unbranded Healthcare Communications to Drive Brand Awareness

By Stephanie DeViteri, Senior Vice President

*This article originally appeared in O’Dwyer’s Healthcare and Medical PR October 2016 Magazine

A continuous conversation among many of our agency’s pharmaceutical clients is whether to invest in unbranded campaigns. It’s not that they don’t see the value of providing general disease and related information, or even that the dollars don’t exist to fund it. It’s more a lack of confidence that they will be able to show senior management the impact of unbranded communications on a brand’s sales. Or, sometimes perceived as even worse, clients fear they may drive demand or sales for other products in their category, particularly if the client’s brand isn’t the market leader.

Given this sentiment, it’s no surprise we continue to see a rise in branded DTC advertising. If you’ve watched real television lately – not the Netflix or DVR kind where you have the luxury of commercial-free options – chances are you’ve seen your fair share of drug ads for multiple treatments across a myriad of diseases. According to Nielsen research published in 2014, spending for direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads increased by 21% over the prior year. Not surprisingly, DTC efforts continue to come under increased scrutiny among media as well as healthcare professionals, as evidenced by the American Medical Association proposing a complete ban of DTC advertising in late 2015.

The Right Time and Place

I’m certainly not saying that DTC doesn’t hold an important place in the toolbox of marketing and communications professionals. However, unbranded initiatives, if done right, can successfully augment branded efforts and yield significant return for a brand and its company. Beyond just a sale, unbranded programming offers the potential to build brand loyalists and evangelists.  And as budgets become tighter and critics become greater, finding alternate ways to reach consumers beyond a multi-million dollar ad spend is a smart business move.

Ground Rules for Unbranded Success

Here are five ground rules to help ensure an unbranded approach delivers on brand objectives.

  • Establish an online call-to-action with relevant digital resources. It goes without saying, an unbranded website is a perfect place to house disease and program information, particularly in a time when a majority of consumers are going online to find health information. And the information shouldn’t simply be static words on a page – mix up the content you’re serving your audience by using videos, animation, sharable images (like infographics), and other interactive materials that are easily accessible on your site while also shareable across social media platforms.Anadditional benefit to launching a website: it serves as a way to measure the level and quality of engagement and interaction with your patient or caregiver community, such as how long visitors are spending on your site and what resources they are accessing. You may also consider housing polls or conducting push surveys that offer visitors an opportunity to weigh in on such questions as how they manage their condition, who they turn to for support and other topic areas. The insights you gather can help to inform how you evolve your programming and build out patient resources from both a branded and unbranded perspective.
  • Encourage discussion with an expert, a.k.a., a certified medical professional.Beyond providing a robust website with relevant and engaging content, it’s imperative to encourage discussion with a doctor about symptoms and disease management, including treatment options. Help your audience to do this by providing a link to a local doctor finder (either embedded into the website or through a third-party patient advocacy group), providing discussion guides or sample questions to bring to their next appointment, and/or offering a free downloadable app where people can track important details of their condition and treatment plan on a smart phone or other device.
  • Make news media care about your initiative. With every unbranded program, and branded program for that matter, having the right spokespeople and purposeful rationale behind the timing of your program launch are critical components. For some programs, the right spokesperson is a real patient with an extraordinary testimony, a high-profile individual/celebrity, or a combination of the two, often in conjunction with a healthcare professional to lend medical credibility to the media pitch. Additionally, media want to know why your program should be prioritized among all of the other story leads crossing their desk or inbox. Ask yourself, what is driving the timing of your pitch – a seasonal connection, new research or disease report, an awareness or fundraising activity in which your spokesperson is participating? Be prepared to answer the “why now?” from reporters, and then once you have them hooked, make sure you have the right spokespeople to keep media’s interest.
  • Invest in paid search. We’ve had the privilege of partnering with brilliant digital and search strategists who have implemented strong paid search against our unbranded programs. I can’t say I’m an expert on the algorithms or terminology related to this expertise area, but I do know from experience – in most all cases – programs with a thoughtful paid search component outperform programs without one.
  • Drive leads for the brand. One of the clearest and most direct ways to connect an unbranded campaign to a brand is by encouraging website visitors to register, or “opt-in,” to receive future branded communications from your company. This is often called a customer relationship management (CRM) program or a lead generation database. While you’d have to partner with your regulatory colleagues to figure out the best way to do this for your company, it’s a tried and true concept that absolutely works. On average, we’ve seen our clients’ unbranded campaigns yield anywhere from a 10-30% opt-in rate of “qualified” brand leads. In one instance, shortly following the launch of a new, first-of-its-kind treatment for an inflammatory condition, one of the unbranded campaigns our agency launched in collaboration with a client became the 2nd top driver of brand leads across all marketing efforts. Beyond gathering registrations, linking directly to a brand’s website from the general treatment section of the unbranded program’s website is another good way to pull through leads to the brand; however, this isn’t always allowed by our clients’ regulatory teams.

The Bottom Line

Unbranded communications programs are not always an easy sell for sales-focused marketing leaders or in companies where there is no precedent for such a campaign. Yet, there is one common sense fact that is hard to argue: a person must first acknowledge they have a disease and how it may impact their life before they are empowered to speak with a doctor or consider a treatment plan…and it’s within this “moment of truth” where unbranded communications will thrive.