Getting the Most Out Of Your Advisors

Engaging directly with expert advisors helps pharmaceutical companies validate and refine medical, marketing, and payer strategies in support of new product development, as well as create credible, compelling, and relevant messages and contents. A long-term strategy and objective-driven approach to key opinion leader (KOL) engagement throughout the product’s life cycle is essential to ensure the commercial success of a brand.

Advisory boards are a key tool to facilitate KOL engagement and receive critical feedback and guidance on a wide range of issues, including clinical development and trial protocols, educational activities and promotional campaigns, and market access and product reimbursement strategies. Tighter budgets and increasing regulatory constraints compel advisory board organizers to do more for less. However, reducing costs without compromising meeting quality and outcomes is critical, as poorly planned and executed advisory boards fail to provide companies with the valuable insights and actionable recommendations they seek from the KOLs in attendance.

Much has been written about best practices in pharmaceutical advisory boards. My go-to list for best practices for designing effective advisory boards and building fruitful KOL relationships is the Top 10 Advisory Board Best Practices. Here, we find three elements essential to the success of your next advisory board meeting.

1.  Set a clear purpose based on actual unmet needs. Setting specific, relevant, and attainable objectives is critical to the success of your advisory board meeting. It is the foundation for the creation of a focused agenda that allocates time efficiently, the development of pertinent questions that guide the discussion and elicit proper feedback, and the evaluation of the meeting outcomes. The development of the objectives should involve all internal stakeholders, including the meeting moderator, and should be communicated to the advisors ahead of time so they have a clear sense of their roles and responsibilities.

2.  Well-prepared advisors make engaged participants. Another best practice consists of providing advisors with well-thought preread materials ahead of your advisory board meeting. This serves several important purposes, such as ensuring that all advisors have a mutual knowledge base, which helps establish a common starting point for discussions, and limiting the amount of information you present at the meeting, as at least two-thirds of the agenda should be dedicated to garnering feedback from the advisors. Examples of relevant preread materials include published trial results, market research data, and product background information. Prework assignments consisting, for instance, of reviewing draft promotional materials or case studies, help focus the discussion and feedback during the meeting. You may also want to consider deploying a premeeting survey to understand practice setting and patient demographics, evaluate baseline knowledge of specific topics, and assess current beliefs about a particular disease or product.

3.  Convert advisors’ recommendations into actionable next steps. Lastly, upon the completion of the meeting, it is important to review the collected feedback internally and assess the viability of the various recommendations. Key meeting proceedings, advisors’ feedback, and next steps should be documented in an executive summary and communicated to all internal stakeholders in a timely fashion. In addition, sharing with the advisors how their feedback and recommendations are being utilized and making a difference contributes to building trustworthy and mutually valued relationships.