Successfully partnering with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) requires moving beyond the traditional transactional approach. Meaningfully engaging with KOLs requires significant planning to understand where your business needs intersect with their interests. To establish a productive relationship, both must be considered.
KOL concerns often echo a familiar refrain:
“I only hear from Company X when they need something from me.”
“My time is valuable—don’t waste it.”
“Too many people contact me with the same requests. Why can’t they better coordinate?”
“I bring unique perspectives, yet I’m treated like everyone else.”
Pharma companies that put in the hard upfront work to devise and deploy an organized plan for partnering uniquely with KOLs will address these concerns successfully. Approaching each KOL individually based on their interests and areas of expertise will help easily identify where opportunities may exist to work with them. When we group KOLs by how they want to engage with a pharmaceutical company, four primary segments generally emerge.
These KOLs want to share their knowledge through research and clinical experience. Their main interest? Helping advance science through observing, listening, and providing feedback to a pharma company’s plan.
Developers want to help create education for their peers. Actively involving them in content development can help ensure educational experiences offer both high science and appropriate context.
This is the segment within which most KOLs become grouped regardless of their interests. Ambassadors are the KOLs who want to do the actual educating and training vs. solely consulting on it. They enjoy authoring scientific studies because it offers a way for them to get in front of their peers to share new scientific discoveries.
Investigators enjoy helping run clinical studies. They may have their own site where they conduct academic research and want to support pharma-supported studies to help enhance a company’s understanding of a specific area of study.
Understanding these KOL segments and your specific business needs from the start will help to determine which KOLs—and how many of them—you need to partner with. It’s not just a question of quantity, but also one of diverse thinking based on specialties, practice types, and other similar considerations. Investing time and effort to define your needs prior to identifying KOLs benefits both you and the KOLs greatly—and most importantly, benefits patient care.
About the author
Rob Spalding has more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry, 15 of which he spent in large pharma companies across several brands in global and US markets.
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There’s no doubt, most of us are quite comfortable working with global KOLs. We seek their opinions and guidance at advisory board meetings. We ask for their support when developing medical stories to share nationally with their colleagues.