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Key Opinion Leader Engagement Planning That Works

Recently, several Medical Affairs organizations reached out with the same concern. Their Medical Directors wanted to improve their Key Opinion Leader (KOL) engagement outcomes but were not sure how to revise their engagement plans to make that happen. We’ll share the same advice here that we shared with those Medical Directors: An effective KOL plan is not about engagement activities but what the measurable results of those activities are for your organization.

Think about the KOL. Mutually impactful KOL engagement is not about what you need to accomplish, it’s about how to establish a beneficial relationship that brings value to all parties. I tell all Medical Directors this. KOLs have many organizations competing for their attention. What value are you bringing to them that earns their attention?

That’s the why now the how. Each KOL engagement plan starts with the KOL. Answer the following questions about each KOL to build an opinion leader-centered plan:

  • How do they prefer to be engaged?
  • What are their scientific interests?
  • What are their professional objectives?
  • What are the existing relationships they have with your organization and other organizations?
  • What is their Share of Scientific Voice?
  • What do they desire?
  • What do they want out of a good relationship?

In this way, you do your engagement plan with the KOL in mind. On one hand, you’re considering your medical plan, and on the other, each KOL has specific expertise. Blending the two is where the KOL engagement plan becomes a successful strategy.

While you might not find the best match between the things you need to do and what is of interest to the individual experts, you also prevent harming relationships by pursuing KOLs who aren’t the best match.

As you develop your KOL engagement plan, get input from team members across multiple departments, not just the Medical Science Liaisons. In many cases, organizations aren’t doing this from a KOL perspective, resulting in multiple plans for the same KOL. Once you have the tactics of the broader medical plan, you can combine it with your KOL plan and ultimately tie those two things together.

Your KOL plan objectives should be outcome-based. Otherwise, KOL engagement plans are a list of activities. Focus on what you’re trying to accomplish with each KOL. Also think about supporting the KOLs desire to build their own profile, whether through publications, presentations, or within social media. Provide a platform for continuing thought leadership and education programs.

Once you set the objectives, use those outcomes to drive the plan. Collaborate with local field teams, local medical teams, and global teams to come together on a plan for each KOL. This prevents confusion and competition and shows a professional, coordinated engagement strategy.

Creating a plan that is the best for the KOL and for the organization is the ultimate goal. How do you do things that are at best for both parties? As they’re growing in their career, you build that relationship. You’ve got slots on boards, you’ve got slots in the speaker program, and you have places where they can get involved with your organization.

The other day, I was having a laugh with one of the clients focused on KOL planning. The Medical Director had somehow gotten looped into a committee to plan the company picnic. They spent dozens of hours talking about this employee event yet typically spent less than an hour talking about any given KOL. They’ll talk about the advisory board. They’ll talk about metrics for MSL performance measurement. And they’ll talk about meeting with the KOLs to make sure that they understand everything. Yet that meeting paled in comparison to how much time they were talking about what food should be at a picnic. Priorities!

Really, KOL planning comes down to having systems and goals to predictably achieve them. Often, the broader Medical Affairs plan covers the goals for KOL engagement but few tactics to achieve them. And the typical KOL engagement plan spells out the activities without a direct link to results, the most important being KOL satisfaction with the engagement. The most effective KOL engagement plans do both, integrating systems and goals. If you have questions about doing so for your organization, contact Acceleration Point today.