When we think of focus groups, we may think of an unremarkable room where clipboards are passed out and discussions are had among a group of individuals unconnected in any way but for the destiny of the product, campaign, or movie that rests in their hands. “This Coke needs more Zero.” “A lizard talking about car insurance? But lizards can’t even drive!” “I think it’d be better if Darth Vader was really Luke’s uncle.”
When considering Medical Storytelling—the process by which we weave strategy, science, and emotion together in order to develop medical marketing and education content that will move HCPs to action—KOLs can play a similar role in terms of influencing the final product. And, with due respect to sugar water, lizard insurance, and a galaxy far, far away, that role is a very crucial one.
Early on in the Medical Storytelling process, KOLs can be extremely helpful in lending their experience and insight on a given disease state or treatment option toward making decisions about what scientific data are most or least important, what evidence is crucial vs arbitrary, and how such information can and should be presented. In other words, KOLs collaborate with medical staff and clients in composing the scientific side of the story that the resulting content aspires to tell. This is particularly useful in terms of filling any medical expertise gaps that may exist with clients or medical staff and as a means to provide different points of view and experience sets that, when taken together, ultimately make the finished content stronger.
Once designers and copywriters get their hands on the material and the story has been developed to a certain point, a group of trusted KOL advisors can further enhance it with key insights and valuable feedback. We often host advisory activities with external KOLs in an effort to test the story and ultimately make the deliverables more effective and impactful as a result of their feedback.
These advisory boards (or, using another term, focus groups) and other consulting activities are an ideal way to gather the insight/feedback we need to determine the relevancy of the material to the end user (HCP audiences). Typically, the earlier in the process such feedback is acquired, the better the story’s prospects at impacting the audience.
Why is involving external KOLs such an important step? The simple answer: they are, in their own way, who we’re trying to reach. Without their involvement, the link to HCP audiences wouldn’t exist and the resulting content—no matter how compelling and no matter how scientifically innovative—might not resonate with target audiences. Whether in capacity as advisors, subject matter experts, or simply a soundboard, KOLs are ultimately a touchstone for the larger HCP community.
So, while the term “focus group” may not fully describe the potential roles KOLs can have in developing medical education content, their involvement during the development process can be a significant asset to the final medical story.