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  • Writer's pictureSAKS MedComms Team

5 Key Drivers of Successful KOL Engagement

Enlisting input and guidance from KOL (key opinion leader) experts is critical to the growth and development of brands as they approach the various stages of development as well as in the programs that are activated for these brands throughout their lifecycle to reach and resonate with the broader audience.

At SAKS Health we partner with clients to help identify those experts and build strong relationships. As their trusted advisors, clients look to us to create strategies and programs to keep these individuals involved in and committed to their business. Below are 5 key drivers to consider for successful KOL engagement:

1. KOL Mapping – The starting place. Sometimes driven by medical affairs and other times by commercial teams, we work with clients to identify the most appropriate KOLs to support their strategic goals.

Often these individuals are those considered the high level and influential clinicians/academicians. However, a deeper dive into the KOL pool will also uncover those that typically slip under the radar or are rising stars. Then surprisingly these individuals turn out to be the ideal choice for a specific client.

The key to identification and selection is having a clear understanding of client needs and recognizing the various nuances an individual can offer. By combining quantitative and qualitative measures to conduct an analysis, one can start painting a picture of a KOL’s influence and beliefs. This then allows creation of a tiering model that enables you to target the most relevant stakeholders.

2. Working Groups – The use of KOL Working Groups by life science companies has shown to be one of the most dynamic forums for engaging and sustaining KOL relationships. With this format, KOLs are contracted for an extended period to work on initiatives that target either the HCPs who diagnose and treat patients in a specific disease area, advocacy groups or patients.

Working group members both recommend projects and make suggestions as to how to approach and execute them. The SAKS Health team then does the heavy lifting to implement strategically sound solutions. With the availability of digital platforms to conduct live web meetings and asynchronous engagements, these types of groups can be productive without extensive travel or time away from patients regardless of geographic distance.

3. Publications – Publication programs include a wide range of formats from data-driven congress abstract submissions and manuscripts to review articles, case studies, supplements, opinion pieces and other types of communications. They are powerful tools to build brand and product awareness and are a valuable source of credible information for the scientific community.

Engaging KOLs in both the planning process and as authors can expand existing relationships or develop additional ones. Often, pharma companies find that publication steering committees are effective to both steer the process as well as help to find the most appropriate author and journal for a specific publication.

4. Advisory Board Meetings – Consisting of KOL experts, these meetings are designed to engage a group of individuals whether they be HCPs, payers, advocacy leaders or patients who are au courant with the current landscape and have a voice that resonates with peers and other targeted audience members.

From them, life science companies can solicit feedback on new research, programs etc. and gain guidance and advice in developing a brand’s approach to the market. They can also help companies to better understand the external environment, therapeutic area, data, competitive products, clinical strategies, and/or unmet medical needs.

Through interactive discussions, these meetings often provide deeper acumen, actionable deliverables, and fodder for future planning activities. By selecting passionate and committed advisors, engagement and enhancement of positive relationships follows naturally.

Though virtual formats have seemed the norm over the past couple of years, we’re starting to once again execute in-person ad boards to help augment and strengthen interactions among all attendees.

5. Congresses – These venues provide a great opportunity to engage with the KOLs currently on your roster and with those with whom you want to develop new relationships. Most commonly agencies work with pharma groups to secure authors for abstracts and to present data at Congresses through posters or oral presentations as well as serving as speakers for symposia.

At SAKS Health, we also recommend to our clients additional KOL networking/engagement programs that allow our team and our client’s team members to interact with these key individuals more extensively. For example, our KOL Connections Program is designed for 1:1 interaction with KOLs, our client and a SAKS team member to gain perspective on relevant topics and build relationships with these individuals.

With our Meet the Expert program we conduct small roundtable discussions with national KOLs and a few regional leaders to better understand and become more attuned to local/community issues and concerns.

At SAKS Health we have found these five activities to be useful drivers of successful KOL Engagement. With our specialized and dedicated teams in action, our clients have expanded their engagements and they’ve been able to continue growing their brands. If you’re looking for some fresh thinking and a partner who shares in your value of enabling a Better Healthcare Tomorrow™ for patients, please feel free to contact us.



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