It has happened to all of us. We sign up to receive updates, offers, and communications from a store, business, or travel site and at the end of the day, we end up with an inbox full of e-mails from the same company offering us different things (or things we aren’t interested in). We are forced to “unsubscribe” due to the sheer volume of communications clogging up our e-mail, not to mention that we end up receiving much more than originally expected.
So what does this have to do with our key opinion leaders (KOLs)? Well, just think back to your feelings on those relentless e-mails you were forced to discontinue. Were you frustrated that the company didn’t do what they said they were going to? Did you feel like they didn’t understand your needs? That they weren’t communicating across departments or treating you as an individual? The same feelings can come to your KOLs when they are working with the pharmaceutical industry.
So, how can we partner together to alleviate the need for our KOLs to feel as though they need to “unsubscribe” from working with us?
1. Communicate internally
KOLs are important to many individuals across the product team for different reasons, and there are many reasons why your team members may want to interact with them on a regular basis. It is up to you to make sure that the brand and company appear as efficient, organized, and streamlined as possible when reaching out and asking for their participation in programs. Appoint one person within the team to serve as the main KOL coordinator—someone who takes the lead on planning and tracking KOL engagements and activities for the year. Determine a central place that everyone can access to view a KOL’s current interactions and scheduling prior to communicating with them. This way you can avoid asking the KOLs to participate in conflicting events or forcing them to repeat their unavailability to multiple individuals across the company.
2. Listen to the interests and limitations of your thought leaders
Does your KOL only want to be asked to participate in “cutting edge” advisory boards? Does he or she only want to participate as a 1:1 consultant or as an author? Maybe the KOL cannot participate in speaker programs due to restrictions from his or her institution. Listen and take note! All of these important details should also be tracked, along with the current KOL’s personalized engagement plan, to ensure you are reaching out to experts with activities that interest them.
3. Make it personal
Your KOLs are important to you, so ensure they feel that way! A simple first step in doing so is eradicating the dreaded “templated” communication. The last thing you want your KOLs to feel is that they are just another HCP that got mass blasted the same communication by your brand—the only personalization coming in the name and date field. Start by knowing their backgrounds—the research, programs, and affiliations they are associated with and keep up to date with what is happening in their world. Peruse their publications and get a better sense of what they are passionate about. Listen and note an interesting thought or story from one of the events they attend. Again, this can all be tracked in a central location and, in doing this, you have the opportunity to personalize your communications with them—especially in an e-mail or a program thank-you letter—to show that you care about them, take an interest in what they are doing, and treat them as an individual. Although this may take a bit of extra effort for your team, it will absolutely set your brand apart in the eyes of your KOLs!