Wouldn’t it be nice to know at the beginning of a year what your commitments and calendar might look like? How might a key opinion leader (KOL) feel, knowing that you are taking the time to carefully consider and plan in advance how you will partner with them? Think about your internal team and the opportunities that could exist if you planned your engagements well enough in advance that you could identify potential gaps or periods of inactivity with some of your most important external experts.
Just to clarify: you don’t need to generate personalized plans for every single speaker or contracted HCP with whom you partner. Personalized plans should be generated for your top priority KOLs—my suggestion would be 20-30 KOLs. And note that your top KOLs should not just be the most well-known experts or those most published within a therapeutic area. Rather, they should be identified by their relevance to your product, your planned initiatives and tactics, and the external expertise you will need to successfully accomplish your business goals.
Creating a personalized plan is similar to developing a jigsaw puzzle.
First, start with your currently identified activities (or the “corners/sides” of the puzzle) for each individual KOL. This could include advisory boards, speaker trainings, speaker programming, working groups, authoring publications, clinical trial efforts, and any other events where the KOL has been identified as a candidate for participation.
Then, include the additional plans (or the “connected chunks” of the puzzle) you know the KOL has for the year, which could include congresses, medical meetings, or even vacations/sabbaticals. This information could be obtained through KOL preference surveys OR through anecdotal conversations with any of your staff members.
Finally, identify the gaps within the KOL’s plan (where there are large holes in the puzzle). Smaller “missing pieces” are expected, but larger gaps of time (say, four to six months) without any type of engagement may impact your connection and rapport with the KOL. I’m not suggesting to add an unqualified KOL onto an irrelevant project, but you can look for other opportunities to engage with the KOL, such as in-office visits, recorded video interviews, or even focus group calls on relevant topics.
Once your plans are established, it is important to capture them in your tracking system so your team has a mutual line-of-sight to the planned activities for these top KOLs. Communicating the highlights of a plan directly to each KOL can also help him/her understand your intended collaboration for the year. This establishes a feeling of long-term partnership, rather than transactional interactions at the whim of the pharmaceutical company.
Building a personalized plan for your top KOLs helps both your team and your KOLs identify the “game plan” for the year. It requires advanced planning and team coordination, but the end result is happier and more engaged KOLs and a well-coordinated and more aligned team.