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  • Writer's pictureSAKS MedComms Team

5 Important Aspects of KOL Mapping to Ensure Success

KOL Mapping, a term often mentioned in pharma circles in connection with navigating and identifying the most relevant and influential clinicians/academicians, can often be a challenging and daunting task. The most effective approaches combine quantitative and qualitative measures to dissect every aspect of the identified individual -- from impact on their specialty to their behaviors and viewpoints on important issues. Understanding the nuances can help increase a mapping project’s success whether your identification process takes you regionally, nationally, or internationally for both top tier KOLs as well as second tier rising stars. Below are 5 important aspects to consider.

1) Customize your approach to focus on each client’s specific needs

Although most mapping projects take on a similar construct, the specific approach will vary by client specific needs. This can be influenced by the drug development stage or therapeutic category as well as how the client plans to leverage these individuals. For example, searching for KOLs to give advice on drug development or clinical trials would be different than looking for individuals who can educate healthcare providers (HCPs) on a new product.

Often clients are not only looking for established, rock star KOLs, but are also interested in engaging the rising stars. These micro-influencers can fly under the radar but may provide unique perspectives. All these factors impact the type of data collected, as well as the way results are analyzed, categorized, and segmented.

2) Use primary research to validate your secondary research findings

Most mapping predominantly involves secondary research. This includes evaluating:

  • Publications (primary authorship)

  • Journals (editorial board roles)

  • Medical societies (posters and oral presentations at major annual meetings)

  • Congresses (leadership roles)

  • Clinical trials

  • Patient support groups and guidelines

  • Other key committee memberships

Primary research, on the other hand, can provide a good barometer of the degree to which KOLs are recognized by their peers and from which to garner experiential endorsements for specific individuals. As such, engaging in primary research by speaking with a few established KOLs as well as internal clients can provide additional guidance in identifying HCPs recognized as influential within a particular specialty.

By linking the primary and secondary research results, one can more easily dissect a KOL’s sphere of influence and start to paint a network of preeminent KOLs.

3) Segmentation: Examining the data from different perspectives

Most mapping exercises rely heavily on quantitative data. This analysis helps to determine a KOL’s share of voice and influence within the physician population. It can be acquired from both traditional (i.e., number of speaking engagements, leadership roles, amount of published research, etc.) or digital (i.e., social media reach) sources. Though easier to capture and assess, this data alone may not clearly pinpoint the appropriate individuals.

Sometimes large numbers in a specific criteria category can skew results to imply that an individual has a greater impact on the medical community than they do. That’s where a more qualitative examination of the data comes in. It serves to temper results and provides a different perspective from quantitative results alone.

4) Evaluating HCP behaviors and attitudes

Assessing how and why a physician approaches patient treatment and determining their therapeutic adoption practices helps gauge a physician’s local influence and peer leadership within specific HCP communities. Once identified as a trusted authority, it may be determined that a KOL’s clout extends to recommendations on both diagnosis and treatment. Not only is this influence invaluable, but these individuals often can assess barriers and concerns among community HCPs to new treatments, thus helping clients obtain clearer guidance on their products.

5) Putting it all together

Once all selection criteria have been researched and a KOL pool has been identified, prioritizing the most appropriate individuals is based on client goals and needs. The agreed upon selection criteria should be appropriately weighted to create multiple lists of KOLs based on their potential to advise and influence others. For example, one listing may have individuals who score high on providing support for clinical trials, another for assisting with product commercialization or a third may highlight those who are best suited for educating other HCPs. An overall unweighted list may also provide valuable insight as well.

And in the final analysis….

Conducting a successful KOL mapping project involves extensive primary and secondary research based on client agreed upon selection criteria. This research should be derived from both traditional and digital sources. The results will need to be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively based on their relevance to supporting client goals. While evaluating both established thought leaders as well as rising stars, it is important to consider the “it” factor, the unknown outlier or quality that makes a specific candidate a good leader and peer influencer. And lastly, remember that a KOL pool is a fluid the landscape changes and needs evolve, so will the HCPs that a client selects to meet their clinical and medical communications needs.

At SAKS Health we apply all of these principles to conduct successful KOL Mapping projects for our client sponsors. Reach out to us now to see how we can support your KOL identification and activation needs.



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