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!


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.

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 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.