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How to Create Ongoing Engagement with a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) in 3 Steps!

In biopharma, the medical affairs and commercial (sales & marketing) teams would not be complete without the valuable thought leadership of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). The KOL helps companies generate data, aid in the development of new products, create fascinating educational content, and help in refining strategy for accomplishing goals.

KOLs are busy. In addition to the support they provide to the industry, they are also very busy with their patients, clinical studies, students, and/or fellows. You must keep this in mind when working with a KOL. You not only need to connect with them, but you must keep the KOL engaged.

Provided below are 3 tips for creating an engaging relationship with your KOL.

  1. Understand the KOL's Needs and Interests

KOLs are sought-after professionals. Their time is precious. Understanding their needs and goals will help you identify ways to connect with them and stay a priority. Engage with them by:

  • Speaking their Language - You have to understand the details related to your KOL. Do they practice in a large metropolitan area or a rural setting? Are they looking for real-world data? Are they trying to better understand why certain endpoints were either met or missed in clinical studies? Roleplay with a team member to practice specific questions targeting the KOL's needs. What are their particular interests or goals in engaging with you? Points to keep in mind include clinical research opportunities (ie. investigator-initiated studies), medical education (i.e. educating fellows), speaking opportunities, advisory board opportunities, or publications.

  • Understanding their Perspective - KOLs have different backgrounds, so your approach to connecting with them must be individualized. Create a template for reference when approaching KOLs in different therapeutic areas or with different training, such as primary care physicians, specialists, Nurse practitioners (NP), or Physician Assistants (PA).

To illustrate these differences, a 2013 study in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery found that when PAs make home visits to heart surgery patients as part of a PA home care program, it lowered 30-day readmissions by 25 percent. Recent research in JAMA Internal Medicine also found that NPs and PAs tend to order slightly (less than 1 percent) more imaging tests than primary care physicians for similar Medicare patients.

  • Preparing Data - KOLs are driven by data. Preparing and offering real world data to the KOL will help with engagement. PM360online mentions, “providing high-level clinical and scientific data will make you a trusted partner playing on the side of medical communities.” Connecting data to the KOL’s needs will help to engage them further. Find data that they may otherwise have a hard time accessing.

To understand this change-philosophy, consider the advice from Dr. Martyn King and Sharon King from, "as practitioners, our duty of care is to the patient and, if there is a more appropriate procedure or a safer product to use for an indication, we are professionally obliged to inform our patients of this."

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They want to function at the highest level possible, so connecting them to the most current information will help to maintain their expert status and keep you as a high-value partner.

2. Respect The KOL's Time

In today’s world, time equates to money. KOLs have large roles within their line of work and a limited amount of time in which to fill them. Showing respect for their time will be appreciated and create lasting relationships.

The best solutions for you to respect your KOLs time include:

  • Well Planned Meeting Agendas - Create a detailed agenda. Plan your meeting minute by minute, breaking down topics into streamlined lists of objectives. This allows you to discuss a large amount of information in a small window of time and know well in advance what outcomes you are looking to achieve.

  • The Right Staff - Make sure you have the right staff at meetings to move forward with the KOL. Being unprepared can lead to unplanned errors, which will interfere with KOL engagement.

  • Train your Medical Science Liaison - It is important to know that your staff, including your Medical Science Liaison is prepared to work with the KOL. Up to as many as 70-80% of Medical Science Liaisons report never receiving formalized training. Be sure that training covers mock scenarios with KOLs and how to present data summaries.

  • Communicate - Learn how they best like to communicate, and stay in touch with them regularly to keep them engaged. To avoid annoyance, stick to once or twice a month unless an important event or activity is underway.

  • Bring the Meeting to the KOL - Streamline practices with medical and commercial by allowing one person to take the lead when scheduling meetings with KOLs. This way they are not being contacted by multiple people within one company.

Get to know what congresses the KOL will attend and be there to meet face to face. With an influx of emails and online requests to engage, you can stand out by ensuring a clean and professional engagement.

Instead of using internal resources on planning these engagements internally, SBHC has been planning these engagements on behalf of biopharmaceutical companies across medical and commercial for many years and understands what is needed to ensure success!

3. Create Opportunity and Add Value

KOLs thrive on well planned science and business goals. Co-create those goals with them.

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Think of how you can offer value without outright asking them. You can do this by:

  • Offering Quick Solutions - Listen to your KOL and think of areas they may need information or support that you can offer them. This will require quick thinking on your behalf.

  • Involve the KOL - Look for clinical research, patient engagement, training, or authorship and speaking opportunities for the KOL. They often enjoy taking on different types of responsibilities because it allows them to be creative and contribute to their specialty in new ways.

Understanding the KOL, respecting their time, and creating opportunities with value will help your KOL engage with you every time and appreciate your preparedness and effort.

SBHC can support all of your KOL engagement needs, from strategy and planning to execution. All can be bundled for your company’s needs. Whether it is KOL identification, congress planning, invitations, reminders, meeting minutes, or onsite support, SBHC is experienced with global major congresses across many therapeutic areas. SBHC can help you streamline your next KOL engagement plan! Contact us for your engagement needs today.