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Before Engaging Digital Thought Leaders, Do These 3 Things

Feb 16, 2021

We’ve published extensively on the best practices of Digital Thought Leader (DTL) engagement. From using a best-in-class dashboard to identity DTLs to building relationships with them, we’ve shared freely what works for our Medical Affairs clients.

However, we’ve noticed a new pattern recently. It goes like this. A Medical Affairs organization engages Acceleration Point for DTL management support. They share their strategy and suggest ways we might help. But before we can consult on the best approach, we bring the team back to the drawing board. We’ve had to help them backtrack, realign in strategy, adjust unrealistic expectations, and ensure regulatory compliance is baked into DTL engagement from the beginning, so to speak.

Consider this pattern your prerequisite. Get these three things right before engaging Digital Thought Leaders, and you’ll never second-guess your efforts or have to scratch your head at the results.

  • Align on Strategy

DTL strategy alignment starts with ensuring your team understands what objectives you have for engaging DTLs. The best way to do that is to determine which medical objectives and tactics will be advanced through DTL engagement. It sounds simple enough, but in our experience, these conversations are often implicit rather than direct. Obvious questions like, “What’s our purpose for connecting with these thought leaders in the first place?” go unanswered in no uncertain terms.

Here’s how to get this right from the outset. Your medical plan includes activities. Verify that DTL engagement aligns with those activities and communicate that fact with your team in clear language. If you identify potential thought leaders for engagement without all parties on the same strategic page, you may find them and realize they do not align with your requirements in any way. Be precise in strategy alignment to set the foundation for positive and productive DTL relationships.

  • Set High Expectations

Whatever you expect, you’ll inspect. The higher your expectations, the more carefully you’ll inspect your efforts. When it comes to DTLs, this means thoughtful consideration of which leaders to engage with for which medical objective. Consider therapeutic area segmentation to ensure you collaborate with the most relevant thought leader for each objective. For example, if your organization is studying a new potential treatment for kidney cancer, you’ll want to engage nephrologists. But what if you dialed in your search to include only opinion leaders who are both nephrologists and oncologists?

Set the expectation that your team will engage with the most relevant DTL you possibly can to advance your medical plan’s objectives. It takes a little more time and effort at the outset, but the impact on patient outcomes is significant. The better the fit, the better the results.

  • Follow the Rules

It’s no secret that Medical Affairs has many regulations to follow. But digital thought leader engagement can feel quite a bit different. In our experience, both Medical Affairs personnel and digital thought leaders are uncertain of the best way to involve Medical Affairs compliantly. In typical thought leader engagements such as a MSL visits, advisory boards or clinical trial participation, compliance is second-nature. Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) are well-versed on what they can and cannot say about company products, for example. They’re able to safely walk the line between education and promotion without veering into unlawful conversation.

But engaging a DTL to leverage their platform can feel completely different. What are acceptable activities, and what aren’t? We highly recommend scheduling an internal discussion, a roundtable, involving relevant Medical affairs team members, compliance and regulatory to review possible engagement activities. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

If you’re stuck on any of these three DTL engagement prerequisites—aligning strategy, setting expectations, or staying compliant—reach out to Acceleration Point today. We’re available for an initial consultation at no cost so you can decide for yourself if a Medical Affairs partner is right for you. Simply click here.

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