MDOutlook's® Guide to Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma

Governed by Independent ThoughtLeaders

What Are KOLs In Pharma?

Key Opinion Leaders, also known as KOLs or ThoughtLeaders (TLs), are experts who use influence to support pharma companies as they develop and market new treatments. By working with KOLs in Pharma, brands obtain credence for projects at various developmental stages.

KOLs in Pharma Tend to Be:

  • Experienced clinicians who oversee hospital divisions and universities 
  • Emerging healthcare stars who have gained the respect of their peers
  • Authoritative voices with niches and followings in specific disease states

Companies may tap a number of Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma to support a single treatment throughout its lifecycle, seeking specific connections, niches and sway over KOL peers, industry networks and institutions.

By planning ahead of time, pharmaceutical companies can plug the exact experts they need into projects at just the right time to achieve targeted initiatives. 

Specifically, KOLs in Pharma Help Brands Meet Specific Objectives By:

  • Advising brands on treatments in early development stages
  • Influencing formularies for payers
  • Influencing treatment algorithms for institutions, such as hospitals and networks 
  • Leading dynamic clinical trials and making real-time adaptations
  • Authoring reports on treatment benefits in respected journals
  • Speaking on behalf of pharmaceutical companies in public and digital settings

In this guide, we’ll discuss how Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma can steer new treatment plans to success and offer tips on developing effective KOL strategies.

How KOLs in Pharma Help Pharmaceutical Brands

Key Opinion Leaders help brands with research, strategy and marketing. Their specializations and leadership make them attractive to pharmaceutical companies because they are able to enhance the development and marketing of new products.

KOLs in Pharma Help Brands:
  • Effect change based on professional guidance
  • Reach new audiences on local and global levels
  • Publish influential research papers in respected journals

Through their participation in research, writings, clinical trials and leadership roles, Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma influence other doctors, institutions, hospitals, MD networks, formularies and treatment algorithms

Could Up-And-Coming KOLs Boost Your Brand’s HCP Engagement?

The experience level and niche of Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma significantly affects their cost and compatibility with projects.

Oftentimes KOLs have extensive experience in their disease state and are recognized as experts, head researchers at universities and leaders at major healthcare facilities. But sometimes, KOLs can be junior doctors and healthcare professionals that have gained the respect of their peers and have amassed large followings on digital platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Known as “rising stars”, their persuasive power can make them extraordinary additions to projects at much more affordable rates than those KOLs at the upper echelons of their field.

Up-and-coming Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma are Attractive Because:

  • They tend to be ambitious, forward thinkers, offering refreshing guidance
  • They have found a way to reach a digitally engaged audience of HCPs
  • They can eloquently communicate research and appeal to wide audiences
  • They are recognized as bright and talented even by more experienced MDs

Historically, it might have been difficult to find and assess the influence of rising industry stars. But new media makes it easy to quantify their influence, while talent search platforms such as MDOutlook’s Lumineer present prospects well-beyond the top 50 or even 100 KOL lists that can be easily sourced online.

How to Identify the Top KOLs in Pharma

Pharmaceutical companies that find the right experts at the right time to support treatments they’re developing and bringing to market are far likelier to reach success. Whether conducting this research internally or working with experienced outsourcing companies such as MDOutlook, it’s critical to know the market in which you’re fishing for talent so that you can access the best person for each specific job. 

Here are Some Tips for Understanding the Market of KOLs:

Word of mouth: Since ThoughtLeaders have powerful voices and influence, brands can be certain that they’re in the public sphere networking with other MDs and HCPs. From press releases to television media, pay attention to who is making waves in the disease state that a specific treatment is targeting.

Social Media: Many Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma are taking to platforms such as LinkedIn to pen authoritative essays on their fields of study. By engaging with KOLs in these digital places of influence, brands can learn more about their opinions and expertise and glean direct insight about the power of their online presence.

Medical Literature: Authors of clinical trial reports and articles in influential medical journals make great disease state leaders. By following the research, brands can keep tabs on who is involved with what and how they’re opinions are shaping the market and demand.


How Mapping Can Maximize Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma

Since KOLs represent a variety of niches, influences and experience levels, KOL mapping enables brands to strategically plan who, when and how to use them at various lifecycle stages. 

Brands Can Use Mapping to Conduct Targeted Searches for KOLs Based On:

  • Company budgets
  • Disease state expertise
  • Geographic location of KOLs (global, national, regional and local)
  • Level of influence 

By outlining a strategy of how to plug experts into treatment development phases to maximize effectiveness, Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma can lend measurable credibility to a company’s treatments and processes.

A good platform for KOL mapping, such as that provided by MDOutlook, will help companies not only identify candidates based on specific search criteria but also enable brands to connect, communicate and seamlessly incorporate KOLs into their projects.

Key Components to an Effective KOL Strategy

A KOL engagement strategy is designed and built to foster strong relationships with ThoughtLeaders. KOLs only want to participate in projects they feel they’re qualified for and are incentivized to cheerlead. For this reason, KOL strategies must be meticulously crafted through research, insights and outreach. 

Different Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma should be incorporated into projects at various points to maximize their influence. Companies should outline this plan ahead of time so that they can pick and choose the right people for the most applicable tasks.

Every stage of product development, clinical testing and commercialization should involve a unique KOL engagement strategy. One person who would be invaluable during the earliest stages of product development might not be as equally effective in later-stage marketing roles.

Keep in mind that Key Opinion Leaders in Pharma tend to be busy. Their schedules are jam-packed with desk work, clinical work, research, writing and speaking. Accessing them, getting and maintaining their attention, and convincing them why their valuable time would best serve your company goals can become a burdensome challenge to overcome. Starting early with a well-defined outline of how they will effectively be plugged into the project at various lifecycle phases will pique their interest. 

Watch MDOutlook’s Free Webinar to Get Started

MDOutlook offers access to tens of thousands of ThoughtLeaders ranging from industry leaders to rising stars across a wide range of disease states and budgets so that companies can easily identify and activate the right people for the job.

Our platform goes beyond the top 50 or 100 KOL lists and plug companies directly into a sea of experts who can drive value for brands. MDOutlook’s Lumineer platform yields up-to-date ThoughtLeader insights utilizing numerous data sources to help pharmaceutical companies identify KOLs in Pharma and understand which can have the greatest impact on a company based on specific needs and budgets. MDOutlook makes it easy to identify KOLs based on data and guides companies through effective engagement strategies and techniques. 

Watch our free webinar Access, Access, Access & Engagement of KOLs & Clinicians – Executing Successful Peer-to-Peer Programs in a Low Access Climate for a deep dive on how to identify and access the best KOLs to increase your brand’s competitive edge