Learn how to navigate the ThoughtLeader landscapes in the new normal.
Physicians are facing a major backlog of patient cases after Covid-19 diverted healthcare resources throughout 2020. ThoughtLeaders, or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and, clinicians on the ground are now harder than ever to access and activate, winning share of mind requires deeper knowledge of their networks and careful planning of every engagement.
Communication between ThoughtLeaders and clinicians has been impeded. So, to make an impact in the ‘new normal’, you need intimate knowledge of the ThoughtLeader landscape. You also need to understand how it is changing and how influence is shifting, including among Rising Stars. Equally important is an understanding of which KOLs are most active on social media, and on which platforms.
Know your target
No two ThoughtLeaders have the same priorities. You need, therefore, expert knowledge of every one of your target KOLs’ individual preferences and goals in order to make a more personalized approach and provide value. For example:
- What are their clinical interests?
- Are they experts in a particular treatment or technique?
- What are their preferred treatment approaches in clinical practice?
- What does value mean to them?
- How can they best be supported?
- How predisposed are they to work with pharma companies?
When choosing to engage ThoughtLeaders in clinical research partnerships, it’s important to target the right ones. At what level do they influence others – globally, nationally, or regionally? Do they have the stature and energy to impact on formularies and treatment algorithms? Do they influence other ThoughtLeaders, and if so, which ones and how?
If you aim to leverage your target KOL as a speaker, or an author on a publication, be sure to read all their previous material before you engage with them, to learn what drives them professionally.
Or if you plan to recruit your target ThoughtLeader onto a (virtual) advisory board, think about how you can assign each physician a role, topic, or section of the agenda that best fits their own clinical interests and priorities.
Understand your target’s network
Many ThoughtLeaders are most engaged with life science companies when a colleague they trust already has a relationship with the company. Remember: while two physicians may be ‘connected’ if, say, they work in the same hospital, that doesn’t necessarily mean one will influence the other. It could be quite the opposite if there are divergences in their treatment approaches or clinical priorities.
That means you need to know who your chosen KOL has partnered with in clinical trials, shared roles with on leadership boards and in organizations and associations, and collaborated with on published articles, editorial boards, conference talks, and physician panels. In short, you need to know who is playing a role in their decision making.
Personalize your approach
ThoughtLeaders will respond differently to different messaging and channels of delivery. For this reason, personalization is the key here and requires careful planning. Some KOLs are more in demand or over-committed than others and harder to reach; some will respond to email, some to a cold phone call, some, a personalized LinkedIn connection or introduction via a close colleague. Others may be better reached through conferences or education programs.
Understanding their digital habits, and their social media interactions with other KOLs can identify new routes to share of mind from digital connections built in the shift to virtual engagement.
Mapping the most direct route to success
Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and deep knowledge are giving life sciences companies the insights to grow their share of mind through different channels. It is now possible to instantly create complex, detailed maps of each ThoughtLeader’s reach of influence, showing researchers, marketers, commercial and medical affairs how to engage with each individual and build more meaningful relationships quickly.
Those relationships – formed from mapping, navigating, and engaging target KOL networks effectively as Covid-19 continues to restrict face to face contact – will be fundamental to brand success in 2021 and beyond.