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.

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!


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.

Today’s top health stories: 23 February

The first rapid test for Ebola

Image source: NPR

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) approved a test for Ebola that can give results within 15 minutes, unlike the standard laboratory turnaround time of 12-24 hours.

Named ReEBOV and developed by U.S. firm Corgenix Medical Corp, the new Ebola test is easier to perform than pre-existing options and does not require any electricity. Although ReEBOV is not as reliable as current screening kits, it is able to accurately identify about 92 percent of infected patients and 85 percent not infected.

ReEBOV requires a drop of blood on a small paper strip and after 15 minutes a reaction in the test tube reveals the results. Critics are warning that the test can result in a dangerous false negative or positive and a follow-up standard laboratory test is recommended.

Source: Reuters


Eating disorders cost the UK more than £15bn a year

Image source: The Telegraph

Anorexia, bulimia and other such eating disorders are costing the country more than £15bn a year, according to a report by accountancy and professional services firm PwC.

PwC say that their calculations, which were made by adding together the financial burden on sufferers, their carers and the lost income to the economy, highlight the inadequate treatment options available to eating disorder patients in the UK and its economc impact.

If diagnosed early enough, eating disorders can be fully treated. However, according to the report almost half of eating disorder patients have to wait at least six months to receive treatment.

More funding is expected to be invested in treating eating disorders, with the government vowing to fund £150m into young people with eating disorders and stating a commitment to lower waiting times next year.

Sources: The Independent, The Telegraph

WHO call for smart injections to be used by 2020

Image source: M Health Watch

A new smart syringe, which breaks after a single use to prevent the spread of diseases, should be used for injections by 2020 according to The World Health Organization (WHO).

The smart syringes prevent the user from pulling the plunger back after an injection, meaning that it cannot be used again. Diseases like HIV and hepatitis are spread to more than two million people each year as a result of reusing syringes, meaning that the smart syringe is an easy way to combat the spread of disease. It is also impossible for healthcare professionals to accidentally prick themselves with a smart syringe.

The World Health Organization have said that smart syringes are more cost effective than traditional syringes, despite being more expensive, due to smart syringes stopping the need to treat diseases caught as a result of reused needles.

Source: BBC

Today’s top health stories: 18 February

Children of teenage fathers are more likely to inherit birth defects

Image source:

Teenage fathers have 30 percent higher rates of DNA mutation, according to a study by the University of Cambridge.

The study, which examined 2,400 parents and their children, discovered that teenage fathers carry a similar amount of DNA mutations as middle-aged fathers. Although scientists are uncertain why teenage fathers are at such high risk, the results explain why the children of young fathers are at an increased risk for disorders with a genetic link, such as autism, schizophrenia and spina bifida.

The study rejects previous assumptions that DNA mutations in germ cells increases with age, with scientists saying the new discoveries could force textbooks to be rewritten.

Source: The Telegraph


Drug Companies withdrawing funding from dementia research due to repeated failures

Image source: University of Bath

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) has reported that drug companies are investing significantly less amounts of money into dementia compared to other major diseases following a series of “repeated and costly failures”.

Despite the huge burden that dementia imposes on international economies, the WISH report is lamenting a “funding fatigue”. Experts say that as resources shrink, dementia research is becoming more conservative, with limited unconventional strategies and parallel drug discovery opportunities.

The WISH report lists solutions that different countries are carrying out to combat the small amount of drug company investment into dementia, with one solution coming from 2013 when the UK named a World Dementia Envoy and established the World Dementia Council. One of the World Dementia Council’s three stated priorities is to increase financial resources for dementia research and drug development.

Source: The Independent


GPs encouraged to highlight colleagues who prescribe unwarranted number of antibiotics

Image source: Telegraph

The NHS are to encourage GPs to question and inform colleagues who they believe are giving out too many antibiotics.

Calls for GPs to self-regulate antibiotic prescriptions amongst their own field come following a report suggesting that 97% of patients who ask for antibiotics receive them. The draft guidance, written by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has been created to counter increasing concern over the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The overuse of antibiotics in the Western world has been cited as a reason for the growing resistance of antibiotics.

NICE’s draft guidance points to the fact that it is often the patient themselves who demand antibiotics rather than being a suggestion from GPs.

Source: Telegraph


London, 17th February, 2015: Tonic Life Communications, the global healthcare communications consultancy and member of the Huntsworth Health family of best-in-class agencies, is delighted to announce the exciting appointment of three new hires to bolster its senior team in London. The news follows the recent appointment of Mary Smiddy as Global CEO.

Ainsley Cooper strengthens the current Directorship at the award-winning agency, and Elisabeth Neal joins as Associate Director while Alex Davies is the most recent Account Director addition. Together Ainsley, Elisabeth and Alex bring with them a total of 30 years healthcare communications experience.

Ainsley has an impressive range of experience across consumer, ethical and private healthcare, with specific expertise in digital health in which she has led over 20 global digital projects. Ainsley’s strategic experience has delivered countless relationships with world-renowned opinion leaders and patient advocacy groups.

Prior to joining Tonic Life Communications, Elisabeth held a Director role at Burson-Marsteller and has worked closely with a number of the world’s leading pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies.

Alex has previously worked at the BBC, AstraZeneca and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). He has significant experience in media management, corporate communications, public affairs and strategic communications. Like Ainsley, Alex also brings significant experience in digital communications, having won international awards for digital campaigns whilst at the RCN.

Mary Smiddy, Global CEO at Tonic Life Communications, commented ‘We are thrilled to welcome Ainsley, Elisabeth and Alex as experienced additions to the dynamic Tonic Life Communications senior team. Our new hires bring award-winning, cutting edge experience of health communications and an impressive flare for the world of digital. This experience in particular builds on our already impressive digital offering and ensures Tonic Life Communicators will continue to lead where others follow.’

The new starters will work out of the new Huntsworth Health offices in St James’s Park, where Tonic Life Communications Europe shares space with sister consultancies ApotheCom and Nitrogen. Consistent with Huntsworth Heath’s positioning each boutique agency provides its own specialised services while retaining the unique ability to provide fully integrated services via handpicked, dedicated multi-channel teams.

– Ends –


Mary Smiddy, Tonic Life Communications, Global CEO

Office: +44 020 7798 9997 / Mobile: +44 07772 709217

Today’s top health stories: 22 January

Heavy drinking rates amongst youth linked to alcohol TV ads

Image source: Frame Store

A study has found that youths who are highly receptive to alcohol advertisements on television are more likely to develop drinking problems in the future.

Young people aged 15 – 23 were asked which advertisements they remembered seeing on television, with those who recalled alcohol adverts incurring drinking, binge drinking or hazardous drinking at a higher rate than those who did not remember alcohol adverts.

The study suggests that the marketing concepts and campaigns of alcohol companies could be impacting upon the chances of young people turning to alcohol.

Source: Reuters


20 minutes of exercise weekly could be enough for healthy life – experts

Image source: Frame Pool

Following criticisms of NHS Guidelines being overly ambitious with their recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise a week, studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a week could be enough to avoid an early death.

The recommendation of 20 minutes a week comes from the British Medical Journal, with the author suggesting that encouraging the end of sedentary life, rather than a life of high exercise, could be more beneficial in getting people more healthy.

The report concludes that research into the effect of promoting reduced sedentary behaviour and increasing light activities is lacking.

Sources: The Guardian, British Medical Journal


Cigarettes could be sold in plain packages from as early as next year

Image source: Pharmaceutical Journal

After years of debate, the Government has announced that regulations towards enforced plain and standardised packages for cigarettes will be put to a free vote before the general election.

The news has come on the same day that a Washington state attorney general has campaigned to raise the legal smoking age in the state to 21.

The brand names of the cigarettes will still be placed on the boxes, as well as smoking health warnings.

Sources: The Independent, Reuters