Whether your firm wasn’t on this year’s Best Places to Work list, or you’re interested in entering next year, Larry Dobrow and Marc Iskowitz provide insight and highlight some of the most important criteria for helping entries stand out. 

Lecia Bushak discusses the debate over reauthorizing the federal PEPFAR AIDS relief program, and what failure to do so might mean for the global HIV initiative. 

An ‘ultra-rare’ art auction tops our Trends segment, along with TikTok patient influencers for diabetes and Bronny James’ ongoing recovery from cardiac arrest. Music by Sixième Son.

Follow us: @mmmnews

To read more of the most timely, balanced and original reporting in medical marketing, subscribe here.

Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Hey, it’s Marc…

This week marks the debut of MM+M’s Best Places to Work, class of 2023.

The winners include the most well-regarded firms in healthcare marketing, spanning 3 categories, from small and midsize to large agencies.

As is often the case when accolade lists such as this make their debut on our website, we get a lot of questions about how to get involved. We know there are always more companies deserving of recognition.

And so, while the judging experience is still relatively fresh in our minds, we’ve assembled a “how to win” style podcast that includes tips from some of the judges, namely MM+M’s editor-in-chief Larry Dobrow and me.

We’ll provide insight into the jury process, highlight some of the most important criteria for helping an entry stand out, discuss what employment trends we saw reflected in the submissions, and pinpoint a few areas where we think firms can seek to distinguish themselves as a BPTW.

And Lecia’s here with a health policy update 

Hey Marc, today I’ll discuss how the reauthorization of PEPFAR, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has stalled in Congress – and what this might mean for the U.S. global HIV initiative.

And Jack, what’s trending in healthcare this week?

This week, we’re talking about Project CASK’s online auction to support rare disease research, Lecia is going to give us a rundown of the top 10 diabetes influencers on TikTok and we provide an update on Bronny James’s recovery from cardiac arrest over the summer.


normally on the podcast you’ve gotten to hear my voice and Mark’s voice unless his voice but there is another very important member of the mmm team that were delighted to have on the show this week, Mr. Larry. Dobrow the editor-in-chief Larry. How are you doing today?

Doing great about definitely put myself at the bottom quadrant of the four-person team. So it’s a it’s great to be here and hopefully I won’t drag you guys down too much.

It’s good because we agree with that ranking as well, but we brush you on here for a very important purpose which is to walk us through the best places to work class of 2023. Why don’t you take us through this year’s class and then we can get into the best practices in terms of how you can win best places to work.

That’s probably best to start by going back a tiny bit. We’ve done best places to work for a couple of years. Now. It’s one of the most popular programs that we do. I believe this year. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 or 80 companies buying for the 12 spots among our places to work. So it’s not, you know, it’s not a participation trophy type exercise. What we do is over the summer we reach out we say

Hey, you know we’re opening this up companies indicate their interest in participating fill out a information form. And after that surveys go out to their employees high up in the company low down in the company everywhere in between and we get a pretty granular look at a lot of different factors, you know, not just benefits and pay but also culture the ability to advance mentorship. It’s a pretty complete picture of what makes some of these companies special and what distinguishes them the rest of the group.

It’s interesting because this seems to really tie in with a lot of what we cover in the agency 100, which obviously comes out in June when you talk about workplace and culture and things of that nature and we’ll dig deeper into that. But I wanted to bring Mark into the conversation because you were one the judges mark what really stood out to you when you were going through the submissions in terms of the ones that really stood shoulders and Above the Rest. Yeah.

Thanks, Jack and

You know as Larry mentioned this is not a one-dimensional exercise, you know, we have ourselves myself and Larry internal judges than we have external judges and you know some of the feedback that we received this year was that you know going forward we should try to roll the the Calculus if you will up into it a 10-point scale next year right now. It’s kind of a five-point scale but spread across like, you know a couple of dozen different metrics and that they would find a composite number that kind of rolled up every entry into one number a more simple exercise, but that kind of speaks to the complexity of this, you know, I try to play Alchemist, you know in the way I approach it in terms of I take a couple of data of those data points say salary and how agencies say they treat their employees.

Along with the employee response rate. You know how many people actually responded from each company and I try to come up with my own composite and from there. I narrow it down to kind of a short list in each category and then delve into the open-ended comments of which there are always a lot, you know that we get and so so, you know to answer the question, you know, the ones that stood out had a lot of response rate they did well in the composite, you know data points and they’re open-ended comments were more than just a dry exercise, you know that the people actually said what makes those firm stand out and what makes them character at home what characterizes them and

Larry from your perspective. How is it changed in terms of the submissions? You’ve seen over the years. Obviously, we’ve gone through the pandemic over the past three or so years. There was the great resignation that really took effect from 2021 through 2022. There’s been a lot of changing Dynamics in terms of work places what has stood out to you in terms of when you were judging

well first and foremost, we probably ought to revisit the notion of

Great resignation. I’m a little bit of a skeptic in that regard. Did it actually happen? I’m not entirely sure but that’s a that’s a different podcast. Right? What I’ll jump out of me this year was that it seemed a little bit less. I don’t want to say scripted because that implies kind of bad faith on the entrance but it seemed a little more freewheeling really the comments this year weren’t just okay. Here’s what our hybrid policy is, you know, here’s what we’re doing to affect the same good degree of work life balance that we tried to affect during the pandemic this year people said, they cited a lot of different factors. There’s also a little bit of fatigue. I think with some of the most common workplace offerings, you know, whether it’s you know, we’re gonna have some Tai Chi classes, you know, we’re gonna have happy hour Up on the Roof, you know roof deck every Friday people want more people want more in terms of their career. They don’t necessarily want to be treated.

To those little kind of mini perks, which you know, some of the companies seem to think are a lot more important than maybe they really are,

you know during the pandemic we saw on this survey employees kind of write in comments, like the CEO delivered a box lunch to my home as a show of dedication and wanting to maintain the company culture despite the isolation of lockdowns. That was 2020-2021 and we saw, you know, whether or whether we saw it or not as Larry said the great resignation fast forward to 2023 and there’s been a cooling of the job market as reflected in the salary survey, which we just wrapped up as well. That’s debuting. I think in this issue too and there we saw a flattening of salaries. We saw longer time in position and a drop in job seeking intent. So in this year’s best places to work comments, I think that was reflected. There was kind of a return to the classic indicators of retention. Like I’ve been here nine years, I would retire here or you know write this company on my bed that kind of thing.

It’s interesting to hear you both talk about kind of

Stickiness that we’ve seen from covid versus maybe some of the fads and different dynamics that were at play during that obviously crisis fueled period of time. I want to go back Larry though because we kind of tease it at the beginning in terms of how you can win because I know that’s probably what a lot of people are tuned in for is like hey, I wasn’t listed this year, or maybe I’m interested in entering next year. What would be your advice in terms of maybe standing Out Among the pack

This is probably the dumbest and most obvious thing I can say but the way to win is to actually be a best place to work. I know that sounds fairly intuitive, but it’s amazing that um, one of the things that jumped out at me was a lot of companies want to be a best place. They say they’re a best place to work which they want to be a best place to work there were, you know in their own language versus the language that came from their comments the comments from their employees or two entirely entirely different things you sense that those companies were the ones that maybe try to Stage manage the process a little bit. And again, this is me reading into it. You know, I don’t know if Mark had the same same feeling but a lot of companies just sort of figured like well, you know, we think we’re great. So the rest of the World’s Gonna think great you got to prove it, you know, you have to actually say here is where we are different and especially within the agency world. There’s maybe a little bit about homogeneity setting in I think right now as you know, Mark said the job climate is very

Friend it than it was when we did this last year and you know, you got to stand out if you want to stand out, you know, you have to do something a little bit different, you know companies are still trying to find a certain set of employees, you know people within Health media people in the data world. I think our new big hot title that we saw a lot this year was prompt engineer, you know, so all the kids playing around with chat GPT, but for the most part, you know companies needed to show what they were specifically how they were different. I’m thinking about one of our small company honorees mean it almost made the place sound like it was run, you know from the bottom up and I mean that as a compliment people that were lower on the food chain had comments that said, you know, I feel that if I have an idea I can get it done, you know, not just bring it up and be heard and you know get like the little pat on the shoulder and a cookie later, but actually affect change that struck me as a pretty important and you know again, I realize it’s not possible and large organizations especially ones that are global.

But hey, there’s a model right Larry. I thought you were gonna say, you know, the best way to win is to enter.


as my reductionist self wants to mention so I would obviously recommend that as well some other things just to you know, piggy back on what Larry mentioned get out the vote, you know, the more responses. We see the better. Absolutely. We don’t expect a ton of responses for a small agency. Obviously that that would be odd but if there’s a small number of responses for a large one that says something about employee engagement at your firm encourage Candor as again as Larry said, you know, tell us what makes you stand out when explaining why your staffers feel this is a great place to work authenticity and empathy really shines through in the open-ended responses on the flip side a lack of authenticity is also pretty obvious and you know part two of that would be you know, yes, your staff will say what’s on their mind from their fears like layoffs to what motivates them to be loyal productive teammates like availability of training strong sense of community. But also the it Factor, I’ll call it that maybe you’re a little bit out there, you know a little quirky and that’s

Is something that you want to come through loud and clear? So again Candor is very important and we look for differentiators as judges, you know is diversity. You’re calling card the ability to have staff, you know, bring their best selves to work again, encourage them to let us know what makes you stand out. You know, one other thing fun Factor one of our judges are external judges said that that was really important to them. You know, we ask, you know, what’s the climate like at the agency is it’s stuffy. Is it snarky you know is is more of a comradery, you know a thing. We also ask about fun and that you know, if you can create an atmosphere that does great work and it’s also fun, that’s a very powerful combination and again as Larry mentioned how you know vertical we integrated. So to speak is the agency in terms of the accessibility of senior leaders, you know that for that ground up kind of feedback and input to to take place is their personalized coaching that sort of thing. So

I am curious I want to ask both of you this was kind of

Reflection of where the industry has gone through covid and obviously through this year. But when you look at forward-looking Trends or emerging Trends, is there anything that stands out to you in terms of workplace Dynamics when you were judging

I think you know and Mark just touched on this in his response but transparency everybody wants to feel like they’re getting straight answers from the people who are leading them again that probably sounds pretty obvious. But in many companies clearly based on the results that we saw the comments from employees that wasn’t happening, you know, people still find out way too much Through the Grapevine through slack groups through whatever else, you know, if you want to be a company that really resonates with a wide swath of people

Tell them tell them what they need to know. Tell them honestly, you know, if you screw up you say hey we screwed up here. Here’s what we’re doing to fix it.

Everybody likes people that own their mistakes and I would say, you know, the next Frontier clearly is diversity, you know, no one seemed to be good at promoting non-white people to senior roles, at least it took our survey and we know from our previous survey research that while the industry has made great strides and gender equality in terms of representation. Not in terms of the pay Gap that in fact widened on this year’s salary survey. So companies still need to keep the pedal to the metal in terms of making sure there’s equal pay for equal work, but they also need to make sure that they’re continuing to widen their recruitment lenses and make making sure that they’re bringing in continually, you know, non-white people, you know people with ethnic racial sexual gender diversity into their ranks to make

True reflection of the you know, America that the healthcare industry serves

the effort is clearly there people are trying they’re just not getting there yet. And until they do I think companies are going to continue to get dinged for that.

It’s interesting to hear both of you talk about obviously where there’s been so much progress in the workplace, but clearly outlining where there is room for improvement. It’s been a really interesting discussion. I hope for our audience as they pour through the results they’re able to listen to this and understand the thought process that you and the other judges went through. I want to throw it back to you just for some parting remarks in terms of there’s any other advice or thoughts on this best places to work rankings that you want

in part to the audience. I’m not sure they’re really needs to be a post-mortem. But you know, certainly, you know, we’re gonna we’re gonna be hearing about I’m right around the time that’s publishes. But yeah, they’re gonna be companies that are upset. They weren’t named one of them. Maybe they were last year and they’re not again this year. I’d say take a look back over the last 12 months. What are some of the things that you did differently what were some of the hiring practices that were changed or maybe

Not changed, you know a little bit of self analysis is never a terrible thing.

Yeah, we just add to to that that again to emphasize that the judging process is very deliberate one. It’s you know comprised of both internal and external members and you know, which is, you know, a check on all these other things and you know, we hope everybody enjoys reading the final report and the 12 agencies that made the cut, you know, we feel are you know,

well deserving absolutely. Well, I appreciate you Larry making your biannual visit to the podcast well reenlist you when the time comments but appreciate your insights and certainly encourage our audience who are listening to this go check out the best places to work rankings on our website. That’s mmm Dash online calm and check out the other great content that we’re posting on the site and other magazine material that’s gonna be coming out before the end of the year. Thank you Larry again for joining us and thank you Mark for your judging as well.

Thanks for having me. Thank you. Joe. Appreciate it.

Health policy update with Lecia Bushak

Congress failed to reauthorize funding for the U.S. global HIV initiative known as PEPFAR at the end of September, leaving the program in jeopardy moving into 2024.

PEPFAR, which was passed in 2003 under the George W. Bush administration, had historically seen bipartisan support – and it has saved some 25 million lives since then, according to The New York Times.

But within the last year, some Republicans have raised opposition to the program, arguing that the White House was using it to provide abortions globally. Republican Representative Chris Smith led PEPFAR’s opposition, arguing that it had been QUOTE “Reimagined – hijacked – by the Biden administration to empower pro-abortion international non-governmental agencies, deviating from its life-affirming work.”

But supporters of the initiative – as well as HIV advocates – have slammed Republican opposition and Congress’ failure to reauthorize it. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller noted that QUOTE “The fact that Congress did not re-authorize the program sends a message to partners around the world… that we are backing down from our leadership in ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat.”

Rabih Torbay, president and CEO of Project Hope, wrote in a recent blog post that the reauthorization of PEPFAR is QUOTE “essential to ensure we meet the global goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

Torbay argued that PEPFAR had benefits beyond fighting the AIDS epidemic, as it was an established system that could be used to address other emerging diseases and future pandemics. PEPFAR has been used in response to COVID-19, flu and Ebola.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, meanwhile, recently penned an op-ed on MSNBC noting that, “PEPFAR has become the latest casualty in America’s culture war on abortion,” and urged Congress to reauthorize it moving into 2024. I’m Lecia Bushak, Senior Reporter at MM+M.

And this is the part of the broadcast when we welcome Jack O’Brien to tell us what’s trending on healthcare social media.

Hey Marc, 

There were a couple of celebrity health updates that made headlines recently, including “Supernatural” star Mark Sheppard experiencing six heart attacks before EMTs brought him back to life. Additionally, actress Shannon Doherty told People magazine that she is battling Stage 4 breast cancer that has spread to her bones. 

Project CASK, a nonprofit foundation, is currently hosting an online art auction to raise awareness for CASK, a rare genetic disease that has less than 300 documented cases.

Twenty seven artists, including Cannes Lion winners and Emmy nominees, have contributed work inspired by Project CASK’s motto, “Rare As Unicorns, Strong As Lions” as well as their mascot/spirit animal the Liocorn to the Ultra Rare Collection.

This initiative kicked off with an online auction on November 30 and Project CASK held an in-person gallery event in New York City this past Saturday.

Project CASK said 100% of profits from the auction will fund research to treat and cure CASK gene disorders.

Yeah, I think it’s a really cool idea and I actually didn’t know much about Cask as you know, the rare disease until I saw this Jack so definitely he knows working to raise awareness. I also really like the idea of using art to raise awareness. I imagine many of our audience members can you know that resonates with many of our audience members, you know this idea of using creativity to raise the voices of patience and things like that and it’s it’s kind of cool to actually take a look at the art. So I I recommend everyone listening to take a look at some of the art pieces including included in this I actually am particularly like the the puppet the lia corn or the liacorn that was designed by the I believe it was the gym Henson companies Master puppet designer. So I think that was kind of cool to see

absolutely I love that one too. I like the skateboard as well. It was really good sort of a kind of an impressionist.

Image of the light Laya corn Leah corn on a skateboard like really like that, but I learned something, you know with these disorders. And as you pointed out Jack there are less than 300 documented cases of The Cask Gene disorder worldwide. So it’s going to be exceedingly hard to get drug makers interested in this one for comparison about 20,000 children are diagnosed with Duchene muscular dystrophy globally each year, which now has four FDA approved drugs. So because there’s no quote unquote pot of gold at the end of the R&D rainbow the two heads of this project Kevin curse curse, and he Tomo Kubo are trying to give families the opportunity to raise awareness and money to push research and Drug development forward.

Understandably, they like a treatment for these kids and this this auction is truly a one-of-a-kind effort. It reminds me also of that bi fit on wearable collection as well as genentex fashion show for people living with spinal muscular atrophy. So we’ve seen these efforts being very successful. Those were two examples of where big drug makers were already available in the case of bi and genetic, but I think you know,

Considering the parallel movement of patient funded rare disease therapeutic development, you know, this seems right like a really good, you know, smart move to tap into that.

When you first search “diabetes” on TikTok, one of the first videos that pops up includes a catchy remake of Meghan Trainor’s “Made You Look” with lyrics inspired by living with the disease.

TikTok account @sugarcoatedsisters, a musical duo that rewrites the lyrics of popular songs into comedic ballads, was inspired to re-craft the hit into a “Made You Look: Diabetic Version.”

“I could have my Dexcom on,” the lyrics go. “I could wear my insulin pump. But even with nothing on, I’m diabetic. I have sugar on me everywhere (She’s so sweet!) Sometimes people love to stop and stare. But this is me every day of the week… I’m diabetic!”

Since then, other TikTok users have incorporated the song into their own videos, with TikToker Soph Mosca recently posting a video about National Diabetes Awareness month that gained more than 2.2 million views.

The videos offer a glimpse into a growing community on TikTok of patient influencers who use the platform to discuss living with what many call an “invisible disease.”

Influencers with diabetes detail everything from daily glucose monitoring to diet plans to the mundane moments when they take insulin shots. These patients even delve into some of the mental health issues that come along with diabetes as well.

Given the significant prevalence of diabetes in the U.S., which affects more than 38 million people — it should be no surprise that plenty are engaging with this content on social media.

Some diabetes influencers on TikTok include Jillian Rippolone, who provides detailed explanations of how she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – Type 1 Amy, who calls herself your “type 1 diabuddy,” Charmaine Dominguez, a dietitian who posts about foods that can help reverse type 2 diabetes.

Comments under their videos note that “diabetic tok” has taught people – including non-diabetics – so much, a sign that “patient influencers” indeed have significant sway over health literacy.

Yeah. What should I Loved You detailing the story here and obviously going through kind of the litany, you know, we have people that are of all different ages backgrounds their individuals. There was the Krugers that really stood out to me in terms of a family living with diabetes and I thought it was really interesting kind of what you alluded to there in terms of building a community and really being able to support one other whether you have Type 2 Diabetes Type 1 diabetes really been dealing with this your whole life or you’ve just been recently diagnosed there is kind of this. I want to say learning curve of like this is how you live with it. And it’s not this thing that’s going to you know, it’s going to impact your life certainly but it’s not going to take over your life. It’s not gonna keep you from being able to feel fulfill yourself as your best self and having recently gone to dexcoms Warriors dinner and recognition of world diabetes day, you know,

About the Grammy Award winner was there as well Nick Jonas has been a supporter of the company. It was so interesting seeing there and hearing from these patients that all they want to do is be heard and support one another and I think all these influencers that you highlighted in the piece really understand that as their mission is like if I can provide some educational resources, that’s great. But realize want to be a pat on the back of a shoulder to cry on somebody to look to for support. So it was really interesting there here. I mean Lesha oftentimes

your tiktok stories raise concerns about the effect of misinformation on worsening the youth mental health epidemic and other serious issues, but this is a positive one. I think anything that shows ways that regular people are able to show how they’ve made the disease fit into their lives rather than people having to turn their whole lives around to accommodate what is a disease that needs to be treated often daily and has serious health consequences if neglected that’s that’s a positive thing. So really was a very encouraged to read about that.

We close with a positive story.

During an episode over the summer, we discussed the news that USC freshman Bronny James, son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, suffered cardiac arrest during a preseason practice.

Late last week, the 19-year-old James was cleared to make a full return to basketball, returning to practice and is expected to play soon thereafter. He had warmed up with teammates before a game a few weeks ago.

After his collapse and resuscitation, James was diagnosed with a significant-yet-treatable congenital heart defect, underwent surgery and has been recovering ever since.

The James family said in a statement that they expressed their gratitude to the “incredible medical team, the entire USC community, and especially the countless friends, family, and fans for their love and support. Fight On!”

Yeah, we’ve definitely touched on this before obviously with Demar Hamlin making the news recently but it is, you know, it’s not unheard of as you mentioned Jack for a young athletes to potentially be faced with a cardiac arrest during practice during a game because of the sort of the the physical pressure that’s placed on them, you know during during games or being hit in a certain way. So it’s always good to see a positive story and seeing a young athlete recovering after a situation like this, you know, fortunately we were able to see Damar Hamlin recover as well.

So definitely good news to hear that Ronnie James recovered as well.

And Mark before I bring you into the conversation for your thoughts. I just wanted to include a quote from the James family. They were obviously ecstatic with the news. They released a statement saying that they expressed their gratitude to the quote incredible medical team the entire USC community and especially the countless friends family and fans for their love and support fight on. So I think that they are, you know, certainly encouraged by what’s happening with Ronnie James and anticipate brighter days ahead.

Absolutely. I mean, I know for Lakers fans has been a tough start to the season as the team is off to a slow beginning but what’s more important than health and for LeBron James and family, you have to consider this the best news ever, you know, you brought any collapse from cardiac arrest from during a workout in July. He’s diagnosed with a congenital heart defect whether that’s enough for the conspiracy theorists out there. I hope so, but he undergoes surgery and this is a very positive sign that he’s on the met. So as you to point out we’ve seen this comeback story before 10 months ago with Damar Hamlin, you know experiencing

Cardiac Arrest during a mnf game and he fortunately as we know made a full recovery and he remains on the active roster for the bills and you know, it’s he’s now as we’ve seen a celebrity ambassadors euro check for Abbott, you know, for other people with heart conditions and a great reminder that you know people with heart conditions can have a quote unquote come back story of their own and that there are so Silver Linings in life. So

Great story.

Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of the MM+M Podcast. Be sure to listen to next week’s episode when we’ll be joined by Cameron Black, a Kansas City-based sports journalist and the first blind basketball commentator on TV.