You’re a Medical Affairs organization. You’re considering your medical plan and how you will collaborate with Key Opinion Leaders (KOL). It can be tempting to jump right into all the things you need KOLs for—advisory boards, to share new science, speaking at events, publishing, and education programs, what fits your strategy, and what you expect as the measurable outcomes. The entire planning process seems to revolve around the event itself—and what you want from it. But a successful KOL engagement is not about the engagement. It’s not about your event, your strategy, or your objectives. It’s about the KOL. What is their reason for wanting to take part in the event in the first place? Put the KOL first as you plan. Coordinate around that individual. We tell Acceleration Point clients that this means discovery and documentation of the KOL’s preferences, objectives, and needs. Learn these, and you can support the KOL so they can do what they do best.
What topics does your KOL prefer to engage in and which do they not? Task your Medical Science Liaisons (MSL) with finding this out prior to developing a plan. Knowing what interests the KOL provides valuable insight you can use to plan events that suit each KOL your MSLs are engaging. Individual meetings between your MSLs and the KOLs are an excellent opportunity to learn these preferences. You can also ascertain any policies their institution or employer has related to Medical Affairs engagements and how those may affect the relationship and their involvement in your event.
Understand your Key Opinion Leader’s goals as deeply as your own. Why are they attending the event, and what outcomes do they anticipate? This can be a starting point in your planning, as successful KOL engagement is the result of getting to know their objectives and identifying overlap with yours. This is how you can partner together to achieve mutual goals. As a simple example, you would want to find out if they are interested in writing, speaking, or conducting research. If your KOL’s objectives are not clear, you will not be able to find ways to add value to the relationship.
What does the Key Opinion Leader need from you, and what do you need from them? Aligning needs and the ability to meet those needs is essential. These are more practical than theoretical. For example, perhaps a KOL is booked on a Friday for an event in Chicago, and your team is considering inviting them to a Saturday through Sunday event in Bern, Switzerland. Is expecting the KOL to travel overseas on such a tight timeline respectful? No. So what does proceeding with an invitation tell the KOL? It communicates that your needs matter more than theirs. No lasting partnership is built on such a sentiment, even if it is entirely unintended. Start by developing an common understanding of your KOLs goals and then focus on how you can add value. That is what engagement is all about.