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.




Transforming into a Digital Disruptor: Lessons Learned from #MMMSkillSets Live

By: Samantha Garcia, Senior Account Executive, and Rachael Schwartz, Vice President

EHR. Biopharma. Ethnographic data. Digital disruption. These pharmaceutical marketing terms buzzed around the room during the April 12th Medical Marketing and Media Magazine (MMM) Skill Set Live event in Philadelphia. The line-up of speakers included key industry leaders like Lisa Flaiz, Group Product Director at Janssen, David Stievater, Director at Epocrates Solutions Design and Athena Health, Dr. Theodore F. Search, Founder & CEO at Skipta, and Will Reese, President and CIO at Cadient.

Kicking things off, Flaiz spoke to the importance of taking a fresh approach to innovation, viewing tech as an enabler and not a strategy unto itself, and creating valuable digital experiences for patients and doctors. “Patients aren’t going to Google or Bing just at diagnosis,” she said. “They are using search throughout their entire journey and are no longer relying solely on their health care providers for information, guidance and support.” With the knowledge that patients are going on the internet in between doctor visits and beginning their (sometimes terrifying) search of the unknown, pharma marketers have the opportunity to make their relatable information discoverable, understandable and, most importantly, accessible with the help from search engine optimization (SEO). Interestingly enough, this area of “digital” is often overlooked – a missed opportunity to the pharma marketer. Major kudos to Lisa Flaiz for opening our digital eyes to techniques that can make or break a business plan and ways to differentiate those techniques from the crowded marketplace.

Epocrates Solutions Design’s David Stievater took the podium and drove home the importance of turning a challenge into an opportunity. Audience members were highly engaged as he explained that the key to success in digital healthcare revolves around the delicate balance of the present and the future – leveraging proven digital channels to reach and engage the full market audience in cost-effective ways, while testing new strategies with the use of digital health, electronic health records (EHR) platforms and health system partnerships. From the eyes of a PR professional whose clients consist of highly-regulated pharmaceutical companies, it was intriguing to hear Stievater’s take on today’s marketing challenges and how, as an industry, we need to do a better job of fostering and inspiring innovation.

Skipta’s Theodore Search provided the audience with some key insights around the importance of a holistic approach to mastering the power of social media – a tool we use quite often at Tonic Life Communications to help our clients expand their voice.

Will Reese of Cadient brought it all together for us when he honed in on interconnected strategies that marketers can use for transforming the digital healthcare experience. He spoke about the importance of drafting the customer experience – customer satisfaction needs to be brought into the development. Putting the patient/customer first and deeply understanding behavior during the stages of business planning and development is the key to success in this industry. Hats off to Reese for a great presentation, plus this awesome closing quote: “Never forget to ask ‘what if’ and ‘how,’ otherwise you’ll never know.”

So, do you feel prepared to transform into a digital disruptor? Share your thoughts with us here or on Twitter mentioning the handle @TonicLC.  Thanks to MM&M for hosting the event and inspiring rich dialogue around a topic near and dear to us at Tonic!

SXSW 2016: The Takeaway….and the Tacos

By Rachael Schwartz, Vice President

Howdy! Heading back from the whirlwind of SXSW 2016, or as veteran attendees simply call it, “South By.” As a SXSW newbie, the energy and excitement can be a bit overwhelming, but I did my best to focus on the missions at hand:

  • Uncover the latest in digital health
  • Pinpoint the critical role(s) of communications in the advancement of healthcare

Of course there was a lot to sidetrack my intentions. The event was chock-full of great talks from once-in-a-lifetime keynotes (including President Obama and Brene Brown), fascinating installations and exhibits (IBM Cognitive Lab, 3M exhibit, Save the Inventor), and not to mention, all the yummy food.

Yet, with all that said, I spent most of my time within the Health & MedTech track. Although it’s still relatively new to the Interactive side of SXSW, the Track managed to attract thousands of attendees, including executives all across the healthcare continuum—from digital health and health tech companies to forward-thinking HCPs and leading patient advocates who embrace social/digital—as well as a few pharma companies looking for their voice in this arena. There were talks showcasing the latest in:

  • Medical apps
  • Digital health devices and medicines
  • Regulation and guidelines
  • Bioelectronics
  • Robotics
  • Chronic disease management
  • And so much more…

As you can imagine, the passion and excitement around new digital health advances was truly palpable. In fact, presentations like “The Future of Medicine: Where Can Tech Take Us?” given by Stanford and Harvard trained physician-scientist, Daniel Kraft, MD, showcased a litany of various digital health tools (from wearables to ring’ables and even hear’ables). While Dr. Kraft ran through the tools that we have come to know and accept into our vernacular (e.g., fitness trackers, e-watches, e-stethescopes and e-otoscopes), he also presented a robust rundown of the lesser known, Jetson-ish products that were either deep into development or just introduced in the marketplace. Of course, there were “Oo’s” and “ah’s,” even laughter at times around the preposterous products, but by the end of his rundown, it became clear that digital health tools are absolutely making waves by gaining major attention among consumers, and more importantly, there is definitely no turning back now.

Upon reflection on Dr. Kraft’s talk and many others through the course of the three-day conference, there seemed to be a common thread and similar spirit—super-duper excitement mixed with pain-staking void. Let me break that down. There is no doubt that healthcare technology innovation has exploded in remarkable ways, but there also seems to be a climax for most of these products when they are hit with a major buzzkill. This reality-check moment points to a clear gap between innovative hardware and the way our current evidence-based healthcare organizations are built to understand its value.

The message was loud and clear during “Imagining the Future of Personalized Medicine,” which featured top execs from Proteus Digital Health and Chrono Therapeutics that we need to go way beyond medical apps, and truly converge hardware, software, analytics, and therapies/medicine in order to deliver real impact with personalized healthcare. These speakers also pointed to the mass confusion that has been created among today’s consumers through the availability of health apps. Proteus’ Chief Product Officer, David O’Reilly, even said, “We are doing a really good job at confusing our patients. No wonder we aren’t getting the outcomes we want.” He continued, “It is time for the industry to focus on creating actionable insights.”

SXSW 2016 showed me that there has been tremendous work done to build a solid foundation for digital health, and now it is time to take it to the next level. But in order to complete the circuit (pardon the tech pun) and realize the real power of digital in our healthcare world, there is a great deal of work that needs to be done across and among all healthcare delivery stakeholders. This means not only will payers, providers, and even drugmakers need to adapt current mindsets (and ultimately structures) to accommodate new ways of looking at evidence, but technology innovators will need to demonstrate clear value and greater opportunity for integration among existing (approved) systems, products, etc.

This is truly an awesome time in healthcare and communications is at the heart of ensuring a steady heartbeat internally and externally across the industry. In order to get to this next level, we need to effectively communicate with one another to better understand the needs of each stakeholder and then ultimately build bridges to ensure alignment towards our mutual goals and objectives. Let me be clear, there is no time to pause here otherwise the moment will be realized by others. Keep moving in the right direction, build on the excitement and energy in this space, and in the end, we will achieve what we are all after in this industry—healthier and fuller lives of our customers.

Thanks for the memories and the insights SXSW!


Scratching the Surface: Technology’s Impact on Healthcare Communications

By Rachael Schwartz, Vice President

Healthcare meet tech, tech meet healthcare. It’s been brewing for some time, but the digital health industry has reached a major inflection point. From wearable sensors and point-of-care diagnostics, to Artificial Intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing and more, the convergence of accelerating technologies is seriously changing medicine and the way patients interact with their healthcare.

The proof is not only in the innovation, but also in the investments. Last year alone, digital health investments topped $4 billion, plus tech giants are rolling out their very own health and life science specialty divisions (e.g., Verily, Qualcomm Life, IBM Watson Health), and of course (why we are here), pharma is trickling in with strategic partnerships (e.g., Qualcomm/Novartis, 23andMe/Pfizer). This all begs the question – is this a fad or a glimpse of more to come?

As healthcare PR professionals, it has always been our job to stay on the pulse of technology and maximize the tools that make the most sense for our clients. Yet today, our tool kit is bursting at the seams and has ushered in an entire new category, which has vast implications across the healthcare industry. So, how do we stay on top of this booming health technology, and most importantly, what do our pharma clients need to know about digital health?

It seems like every day we are seeing more media reports on the newest sensor, health app, device, etc. and often they overlap with a therapeutic area that we work within. But, does every technology that overlaps in our interest areas need to be flagged and pursued by our clients? Not necessarily. Knowing the intricacies of the brands and credos of the companies that we work with is critical to how we vet and pursue (or not pursue) new technologies. It’s also helpful to remember that digital health is not yet top of mind for all our pharma colleagues, and therefore, informing them of an interesting technology may be falling on deaf ears or at least ears that have yet to be exposed to a digital health ear device (not my best digital health humor, but a solid attempt). Bottom line, we need to know how our clients are viewing and prioritizing digital health (sometimes broadly coined “innovation” internally) in order to appropriately guide our strategic counsel. By getting this overall digital health temperature check, we can proactively audit and flag technologies and opportunities that have the potential to bring additional value to the patients our clients serve.

Naturally, our innovative positioning know-how coupled with our specialized ability to influence key stakeholders creates a solid foundation for whatever new technologies come our way. Just as we in PR evolved our business to leverage and maximize social platforms, we now look to the plethora of digital health innovations to take us to yet another level of what we are all in this for: patient care. So, bring it on, digital health!

Stay tuned for an even deeper dive into the world of digital health later this month following my trip to SxSW Interactive. The Med Health track is filled with leaders across the industry and will surely inform our overall approach to digital health at Tonic Life Communications.

Selling the Story: 3 Similarities of Sales and PR

By Deirdre Brett, Account Executive

“Today everyone, whether they know it or not, is in the emotional transportation business. More and more, success is won by creating compelling stories that have the power to move people to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.”

 -Peter Guber

After spending five years in an inside sales position, I was excited for a career change and eager for my first foray into the fast-paced world of public relations. Hungry to learn (and break out of my tall-walled cubicle), I was ready for a change and optimistic about my abilities. In hindsight, I had no guarantee my sales experience would translate so seamlessly to PR, and I suppose my transition could have found me helpless, floundering and crawling skinned knees and bruised ego all the way back to the dreaded cubicle.
To my surprise, the more I became engrained in my new journey, the more I uncovered the connected nature of sales and PR, in both the most obvious and surprising of ways. Here are three valuable skills I learned through my time in sales that have benefited me (and hopefully you!) as I continue to build my knowledge about PR:

  1. Persistence: Throughout my time in sales, I was reminded on a daily basis the value of persistence. In sales jargon, they call it “dialing for dollars”; it’s the idea that the more calls you make, the closer you are to the sale. However, being on the receiving end of hang-ups on a daily basis tests the patience and commitment of even the calmest of heads. Combined with the consistent cold calling was the nature of the sale itself—it was long and slow and took months – and in some cases, years – to close the deal (sound familiar to those in PR who start business planning and budget scopes mid-year?). You worked hard every day and often times it felt as though you had nothing tangible to show for it, but you dialed on. The process was tedious, but it taught me that persistence is the cornerstone of success. When starting to navigate PR, it was this lesson in persistence that gave me the confidence to try and not be too overwhelmed by a new industry. Unexpected challenges, last-minute changes and urgent client requests are inevitable, especially in PR, but take a step back—remind yourself that at your core, you are persistent and capable. And remember there is always a workaround—just keep climbing!
  2. Relationships: In order to create value for customers, it was necessary to understand the customer, establish trust, and build a relationship. Approaching the sale as an opportunity to partner with your potential client changes the nature of the relationship. Likewise, in PR, part of that relationship involves a partnership bolstered by listening and compromise. One might argue that PR, at its core, is all about managing relationships. Similar to sales, understanding the needs of your client(s) is the foundation of the relationship. Relationships in PR are critical—from the ones you build with media to the strategic counsel you offer your clients, and I’ve learned it’s necessary to be flexible, thoughtful and attentive.
  3. Story Telling: In sales, communication or story telling was an essential piece involved in the buying process. It was vital to understand the buyer’s needs and wants so you could clearly articulate, connect and begin to build the relationship authentically and sell your story. In both sales and PR, developing effective writing and verbal skills is part of the battle, but weaving that tapestry of words together in a way that captivates your audience is where true story telling comes to play. And in PR, stories are everything.  We monitor news stories, evaluate stories, pitch stories and we bring that process full circle—we are also the conduit, the vehicle, the creator of stories. Storytelling is one of the oldest human traditions, and through PR we are rooted in that history. Even more than sales, we are in the business of selling stories and more accurately, stringing together stories that matter and mark our place in time.

Leave Your Mark: 5 Ways to Create Your Personal Brand

At its core, public relations is all about building and supporting a client’s brand. We do it every day for other people, so why not do it for ourselves? Whether you’re looking for a job, just started a new role or want to make a lasting impression, creating a personal brand will not only give you confidence, it will also set you up for success. Here are five ways to build and maintain your own personal brand.

 1. Know your goals.


Whether you’re focused on the short-term or farther in the future, knowing your goals gives you a sense of direction. Then when you articulate those goals to other people, it gives them a sense of who you are and what you want to achieve. Just like any company has a set of values that guide and define them, let your goals speak to your own personal brand.

2. Identify your audience.


The key to strengthening your personal brand is being able to “sell” yourself to any audience. What’s important to them? What are their goals and values? Do some research on your audience to help you create those connections. If you show that you took the time to get to know them, they’ll be more interested in getting to know you.

3. Recognize your unique strengths.


Good organization and attention to detail will definitely help you succeed, but will they help you stand out? Maybe not. When building your personal brand, think about what makes you unique. Draw from moments where you truly excelled and highlight those strengths. These are the things that will make you (as a brand) memorable.

4. Be consistent across all platforms.


In an age where our personalities are displayed digitally, it’s important that your personal brand is consistent on and offline. This means cleaning up your social media pages (if needed), ensuring that your resume matches your LinkedIn profile, and your personal blog and/or website is up to date. Your online profiles should mirror your real-life personality. Consistency is key!

5. Relax and be yourself.


At the end of the day, your personal brand is all about being yourself! No one wants to get to know someone who seems fake, so create your personal brand by just being genuine. Focus on your future goals, unique strengths and creative ideas, and your true personal brand will shine through.

When “Earned” Holds a Different Meaning

By Jessica Ross, Senior Media Specialist

As PR pros, we are aware the print news industry is struggling. Large layoffs, consolidation of smaller community papers, and dissolving of “softer” news beats increased in frequency throughout 2015. The Financial Times and The Las Vegas Review-Journal were sold to larger companies in an effort to salvage their papers, and recently instead of a corporate buy-out, we witnessed our very own Philadelphia Media Network donating The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com to a new nonprofit journalism institute owned by the Philadelphia Foundation. To the general public, a nonprofit holding ownership of a news entity may help ease the unrest regarding editorial ethics and bias that can come from a corporate buy-out, but we in the PR field can more clearly see how this may not be the case.

In a recent statement, former owner H. F. Lenfest detailed the new institute’s structure was to “provide philanthropic avenues to fund the company’s journalism,” meaning other foundations, corporations, and benefactors can give money to the institute to be used for specific reporting efforts and journalism projects, such as endowing an investigative-reporting team, supporting coverage of the city’s school system, etc.  Even though Lenfest claims that the institute has no power to influence editorial decisions, the question immediately arises of how true in practice this may be. Even in the most indirect way, cash flow can dictate the amount of staff available to each beat and therefore give an industry with more benefactor support an editorial advantage over other newspaper sections that don’t have the manpower to generate organic content.

With paid integration already on the rise in the PR industry, where a company pays to control editorial content it’s clear that the lines between earned and paid media channels are becoming increasingly blurred – a trend PR people should follow closely. By funding endowments to specific newspaper sections or projects, companies’ communications teams may be able to secure more media coverage than they would through a paid integration. It will be interesting to see how this influences Philadelphia news coverage, if other papers across the country take this approach as a financing solution, and if companies begin to use this in a strategic approach to media relations in the future.

What do you think? Should we as PR professionals capitalize on the ability to fund specific newspaper projects, or is this crossing an ethical line when it comes to earned editorial coverage?

Your Wish, Our Resolution

By: Liz Kane, Senior Account Executive

Whatever you prefer to call it – a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning – the new year provides another 365 days to achieve goals. As 2015 came to a close, we asked our clients and industry contacts what their one PR wish would be for Tonic Life Communications to achieve in 2016. As a thank you for their efforts, Tonic made a charitable donation on their behalf to their choice of Philabundance or Heifer, doing our part to ensure families in Philadelphia and around the world had a happy holiday season.


While we certainly expected to gather a variety of results and interesting ideas, what we heard from our clients and partners was much more valuable: an array of actionable “to-dos” that will strengthen our proven expertise, expand upon our capabilities, help grow new business, and challenge Tonic in a way that can only excite a team of PR professionals. Responses received from @JanssenUS, @TevaUSA, @Sanofi, and @Pfizer included:

  • Create social media and digital communities
  • Grow brand support
  • Expand best practices across networks
  • Drive disease awareness
  • Develop award-winning programs to support client business goals

You may be asking yourself, how can one agency achieve all of this in one year? Well, with a network of highly accredited clients, a team of hardworking PR professionals, and creative strategy, Tonic’s successes in 2015 set the bar pretty high to accomplish all of the above and more in 2016.

Let’s take a look back at a few highlights from 2015!

Won Several Awards for a Public Service Campaign

Know Your Count:

  • Clio Healthcare Bronze Award – Public Relations, Disease Awareness Campaign
  • Hermes Award
  • Marcom Platinum Award – Public Relations
  • Marcom Honorable Mention – Public Service Announcement
  • Philadelphia Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Pepperpot Award – Public Service Announcement
  • PR News Agency Elite Award

Expanded Educational Campaigns with Celebrity Spokespeople

Get Your Full Course: In partnership with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), Get Your Full Course is an educational campaign developed by Janssen (client) to help people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) manage their disease through diet, nutrition, and appropriate therapy. Throughout 2015, Get Your Full Course and spokesperson Sunny Anderson embarked on a campaign tour hosting events in seven cities across the country.

Joint Decisions: An educational initiative developed by Janssen (client) in partnership with CreakyJoints to support and empower people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Joint Decisions offers resources for people with RA to learn to take a more active role in the management of their disease, and to seek more open, honest conversations with their healthcare team to improve physical and emotional well-being. In 2015, Joint Decisions teamed up with spokespeople Megan Park and Matt Iseman to raise awareness of RA, connect with patients across the country, and provide them with valuable tools. The team launched a Joint Decisions Facebook page and, with the help of several RA patient advocates participating in Joint Decisions events, got the #JointDecisions hashtag trending on Twitter.

Formed a Community of Online Influencers

IBD Social Circle: IBD Social Circle is a community of advocates – healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers – who are dedicated to supporting and educating the IBD online community through sharing resources, personal stories, and thoughtful insights through a website and hashtags, #IBDSocialCircle and #IBDSC. In 2015, the IBD Social Circle hosted one web chat and three Twitter chats for the online IBD community, discussing topics such as dating and intimacy, choosing the right healthcare team, and preparing for surgery.

Armed with the capabilities and a can-do attitude, Tonic resolves to make 2016 even better than the last! How will you take on the New Year?

Contact us to kick things off! We’ll create a PR plan customized to fit your objectives @TonicLC Email or Phone: 215-928-2368


5 Ways to Maximize Workplace Productivity

By Katie Alberico, Account Executive

New year, new you – right? Everyone is back in the office and off to the races. Clients are eager to start activation, and if you’re like me, you are trying to make yourself as productive as possible while also staying awake (insert coffee emoji here).  Here are five ways to maximize your workplace productivity:

  1. Minimize Distractions. Living the simple life is always better when it comes to your desk and work environment. Clearing your desk of cluttered papers, notes and cups can help you have a fresh start before diving in, allowing you to focus only on the task at hand. Forget about those distracting notifications on your phone – turn on the Do Not Disturb feature and flip over your screen. Out of sight, out of mind.
  2. Make a To-Do List. As old-school as they are, to-do lists are a PR professional’s best friend. Everyone has their own style – most important items first or by date of delivery. I find using the notepad style post-it’s are perfect for me. I can keep it as a notepad, or peel it off and stick to my notebook as I’m bouncing from meeting to meeting, keeping each of my to-dos ever present in my mind.
  3. Delegation. Knowing when to seek help is an incredibly strong trait. Leaning on your team members during times of high volume is important (and it’s the reason you have a team)! If you are taking on too much with multiple pending deadlines, you may actually be hurting your team and yourself. Divide and conquer to keep things moving on-time and efficiently.
  4. Take a Break. If you’re go, go, go all the time, you will burn out! Treat yourself to a snack or read that article you saw earlier. Doing something other than work for a few minutes will actually help you focus on your tasks later on. Studies have shown that by sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours with minimal movement will actually make you more tired. Get up and move or take a moment to work from a standing desk if available.
  5. Prep for Tomorrow. At the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is more work, but taking a few minutes to plan for tomorrow will make a world of difference (see to-do list above). Recapping the day and evaluating what needs to be accomplished tomorrow is a great way to start off on the right foot the next day. It will also help you navigate the water if for some reason an unforeseen issue pops up first thing in the morning – we all know it happens.

We’d love to hear your tips on how to stay productive at work! Tweet us at @TonicLC or leave a comment below.

What’s to Come in 2016? PR Predictions for the New Year

By Brianna Rooney, Assistant Account Executive

As we all make resolutions for 2016 (mine includes writing more), we should also address what is on the horizon in the public relations industry and trends to look forward to in the new year.

While the recent CES conference kicked off the year with new technologies, it’s important that the PR industry acknowledges and embraces the digital shift for continued success. Here are three of our predicated PR trends for 2016:

  1. PeriscopePeriscope took off in 2015; we saw it all over Twitter – people filming everything from daily activities to major international events. We believe this year, it will be even more widely used and thus a more useful tool for the communications industry. While we unfortunately cannot attend every industry conference, live tweeting will continue to be popular and will be supplemented with Periscope. This way, we can hear the excitement of major announcements, take our own notes on new programs and enjoy the event as though we are there. Remember, this tool is free and continually adds new capabilities.
  2. Campaigns that Give Back – As a PR professional in the healthcare industry, it is easy to feel you are making a difference and knowing the work you are doing is meaningful, but this is not always true for all of PR. With more and more companies implementing a giving model or working with a partner non-profit, your everyday news will have much more competition for media. If you are doing the bare minimum, you need to step it up! In addition to your campaigns, how is your company giving back to the community and going above and beyond? Implement a mission to drive your agency, and let that be the force for your year.
  3. Offline Interactions – In today’s digital age, we PR pros often fall into the trap of thinking everything happens on the computer screen, but it is important to remember the value of offline interactions and relationships. If you go the extra step to connect with a colleague potential new client in a way other than email, this will be remembered.

We will certainly take these considerations into account in 2016 and hope you do, too! What PR resolutions do you have for 2016 that weren’t mentioned? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us at @TonicLC.