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Successful KOL Engagements


During this presentation, Avant Healthcare President Trina Stonner discusses important insights around shaping future KOL engagement strategies, and why doing so successfully will require a deeper presence today in the following areas:

  • Connecting KOLs to share/receive answers more quickly, concisely, and substantively
  • Amplifying KOLs’ voices and opinions beyond the podium
  • Unleashing (and managing) regional and local KOLs
  • Optimizing KOLs’ roles across brands and disease states
  • Measuring KOL engagement more robustly

Webinar Transcript

Trina Stonner: Hi, this is Trina Stonner with Avant Healthcare Marketing. Welcome to our webinar, "Being Engaging When Engaging KOLs." I'm currently president of Avant Healthcare and have been here for approximately eight years. Prior to joining Avant, I worked in big pharma and then prior to that, I was an advanced practice nurse at a university hospital. Today we are going to cover five KOL trends: connecting, amplifying, unleashing, optimizing, and measuring. I'll do a double-click on these five KOL trends as we move along in the webinar.

The first I'd like to share on why KOL partnerships are really more important than other. This is a report from Bain in one of the surveys that they did in 2017 and this survey has been done in 2011 and '15. What it is demonstrating is that there are certain partnerships and certain medium or channels that are continuing to decline while others are growing. Obviously, the sales representative has continued to decline, but those KOLs still remain important. Although that the number of the KOL partnerships and really where physicians are using KOLs and for their information although that has decreased from 2015, we really believe that is more to the current environment and really limitations of those KOLs.

So, let's jump right in to that KOL trend number one, and that is KOLs want substantive answers quickly and concisely and so do their peers. And you are probably continuing to see this in all of your marketing and medical efforts. So, this is a slide that is from ZS Associates affinity monitoring report from 2016. And what its demonstrating are what are those highest engagement rates for HCP channel preferences? You can see that KOL and pure opinions and insights really rank at the top of the most frequent and as well as the most engaging type of multichannel. This is demonstrated in how often they open up this and then how often they find it very beneficial.

So, we have developed at Avant a couple different solutions that are really helpful for you to use with your KOLs as regular as well as other HCPs in delivering on real-time solutions. So, once again, them being able to get answers when they want but also from those KOLs. The first solution is the MSL OnCall. So, what is it? It's a mobile forum that allows HCPs to be able to connect with other corporate medical folks, field medical, or even KOLs. It's a solution that is able to capture details and to establish a connection, and it offers voice, video, or text chat with or without screen sharing and allows that MSL or KOL to log HCP questions.

So, think of it as a HCP or a KOL is wanting real-time information. Instead of waiting for an MSL or waiting for the company to be able to get back information on when it's convenient for them, this allows real-time information. You're able to schedule it in a very easy format. What it does and what are some of those benefits? It really ensures access to medical and scientific information that the KOLs need now. It builds in compliance linking HCP's unsolicited medical questions to the right person. So, this is very compliant and allows that firewall that is necessary between that field in medical and KOL, and captures analytics around questions when HCPs want their answers.

How does it work? Think of it a little bit like an open table so that if a field representative is meeting with a healthcare professional, they would like information and they would either like to talk to somebody from the company's medical department or if they would like to meet with a KOL, you're able to go online, pull up the app to see when there is availability. And then also being able to schedule that in advance or be able to have a real-time conversation.

A second different solution that we have worked with and are currently working with various companies on is called KOL mobile insights. This allows you as a company to establish instant connections with your KOLs and being able to gather insights. It's used via a mobile app and you're able to pulse out questions and stimuli over timed intervals. You can generate those responses and those KOLs and advisors can provide feedback via text, audio video. You're able to capture those rich insights when those KOLs are in the moment of either their daily practice or even at the evening when we know many of them do their work.

Then establishing or really creating a compelling insight film or interactive report. What are its benefits? It endures engagement with your KOLs, so it's beyond the ad boards. It creates content and you're able to curate that, which is immediate, intimate, and even of the moment. It's convenient. It allows your advisors and KOLs to provide those insights in a 24/7 format and really being able to utilize that at the point of care, and especially if you think about them using a mobile device and a voice. It really creates a voice to those who may be hesitant to speak up in a meeting.

This is just an example of that really three step process of a user downloads, they receive a request, and then they're able to respond. So, what is the second KOL trend ... Is voices and opinions are reaching beyond the podium. We know that, that where are we getting information, healthcare professionals, and where are we engaging those? There's really been a flurry of recent technological advancements that are transforming how customers engage with brands. We're seeing that and our KOLs are experiencing it in virtual reality. We're asking them to participate in this. These augmented, 360 video, voice assisted connecting devices, and even we know in our proximity engagement, so really keeping in mind that we are asking our KOLs, but they're also experiencing it, and really ask for you to think through how far are you on the curve in working with your KOLs in technology?

There is definitely a shift in that transfer of experiences. Today we know that colleague to colleague is still important and nothing is better in person. We believe that will continue to evolve and will likely—though, not change that we still need that peer to peer—but how they're doing it is a little bit different. You might see more electronic health records for your KOLs to be giving information. Definitely on that social media platform. And then what happens with this new evolution of our opinion leader? Those digital opinion leaders and the amount of influence that they have?

I would challenge you to say “do you know how your digital opinion leaders are for your brand or your medical franchise or therapeutic area?” Many times they're different than your traditional KOLs, but they have a very significant influence because they can share broadly and they can share quickly.

One thing that we are continuing to do is monitor social media. This is a recent report from ZS when really looking at how are we merging social data with structured data for advanced analytics? This was a recent report that was looking at oncologists and PCPs and their use of social media, which is quite high, and then how many of them are actually engaging in social media and then what are their opinions on Twitter?

We know that a KOL on Twitter has a greater reach versus one who does not, but we know that we need to monitor them, so there is different things that I ... What we can help with at Avant in developing social media profiles for your KOLs and then monitor that activity to provide insight. We can see that ... what are those influence nodes on Twitter? What are also those hot topics? How is that changing and then how are you able to pair up your social media data with more of your structured data, such as helping that HCP understand willingness to prescribe? What are the social media mentions and then that correlated TRX or new to brand?

One thing that is also continuing to increase is this hashtagging in healthcare. There is an ontology initiative that is really emerged in social media and with Twitter. It's the healthcare hashtag project. It was developed to make Twitter more accessible for providers and their healthcare community and to offer a platform for patients and providers that connects them to relevant conversations and communities. I would direct you to a site called Symplur.com, S-Y-M-P-L-U-R.com. It is a free site and you're able to see the ongoing utilization of all of these hashtags. There are groups for cancer, cardiology, hematology, oncology, and urology. And right now, this company is continuing to monitor all these different groups.

The largest is breast cancer and it's hashtag BCSM, but when you go on this site, you will see multiple different sites and different initiatives that are ongoing and all the different conversations that is occurring. Right now when I last looked there was 1.5 billion tweets around these hashtags, over almost 16,000 topics and ... (silence) ... Quite significant and is really starting to become a game changer in the social media space for HCPs as well as consumers. One thing that we are also able to do is looking at tweets by content type.

So, this was an example of a KOL tweeting sentiment about a brand, but as time has gone on, we observed that this KOL had less and less tweets regarding what they currently had been tweeting about, but recently there was also an increase in frequency and several mentions of new findings. It was becoming more on the nonclinical side versus the clinical side. Another different observation is that what are the very specific key words and respective tweets by topics in KOLs? Which is just another utilization of the social media platform.

Our third trend is around the regional and local KOLs, realizing, as I said on the beginning slide, that we know KOLs are very influential within their peers and how important it is to understand their insights, but we also know that there are many different restrictions, and this is especially apparent at the national level, and those are really in academia, but what about those emerging national and those regional and local? What assessment have you done as a brand or as a medical team to really understand? Do you know tier two or those emerging nationals and regional local KOLs and what type of plan initiatives to you have to partner with them?

This was recently an initiative that we work with to really understanding those regional networks. What type of initiatives that we should work with them on to ensure that there's a voice at that regional level. So, this was regarding a programming and webinar series, but as you can see, we wanted to really understand what was that regional network analysis? Where was their voice? Then, being very strategic in putting those programs where those regional and local KOLs are, so really understanding that the role of that regional and local and the benefit of it can have when designing your very specific tactics including programming.

KOL trend number four is really the role of the KOL across brands as well as disease states. So, you're probably seeing this in your own company or you're hearing of your colleagues and seeing this in the marketplace as this increased role of two big therapeutic areas, that whole immune system or immunology as well as oncology and really even the increase in the role of rare diseases. We know that when you look at all of the reports from big pharma and mid sized pharma, you are seeing the role of oncology and immunology, but the increase in those physicians is not increasing. The number of them is not increasing as much.

So, what does that mean? We will be working with less oncologists, probably within our brands and therapeutic areas, so we need to be very connected and understand that when working with KOLs, what is your platform plan? So, this was just an example of a KOL platform plan that was done with various brands and franchise, realizing that this was medical as well as marketing initiative and platform and the need to have a coordination across the months. One other way to understand on the KOL interaction is you are able to look at that from a consolidated source via a live dashboard. And this is another solution that we have here at Avant, is looking at what are those number of dinners or activities in advisory boards. And you're really able to understand what KOLs have you been working with the most versus the least and why this is important—of course from a compliance reason—but more of do you have a universal insights? You know, are you really relying on just a couple KOLs to send that information and to share that information, or more are you really trying to understand it from a more universal voice? Then once looking at a very specific congress initiative, you're able to do even a little bit deep dive, is really understanding that where there's very specific conferences that were a better opportunity to meet with those KOLs as well as if you're able to look at that by quarter. So this is just one of the dashboards that we currently have done with a client.

Lastly, KOL trend number five is that there's gonna continue to be more measurement of that KOL engagement and realizing, though, that it needs to be done, of course, in a compliant manner. Those KOL measurement and evaluation goals, think of it as the long and the short of it. I think we all do a very good job over the years of doing that short term evaluation. We ask advisors how was the meeting? Were their contributions valued? And we want that very specific activity. But we also know how important it is on a long term basis, and that is to assess each of those KOLs on that partnership.

We need to do that from the KOL perspective. You know, they can give us feedback on how the project was managed, the perceived impact of their work, as well as areas of improvement. But we also need to do that from a company perspective, and this is where I see less of this happening. And that is what is that value that KOL is bringing from their insights? Are they able to partner on a consistent basis? And of course this is all done from in a compliant way, but whether or not the KOL should continue in their role. Are they qualified for that role? Are they able to interact with other KOLs at an advisory board? And were those business needs met? What we mean by those business needs, not a financial business need, but more of were you able to meet the objectives of an advisory board or a working group?

This is an example of a KOL dashboard. When working with our multiple clients, I would say some of them do a much better job of keeping a dashboard and really understanding on how are they going to measure their KOLs. When you first look at this, there's a lot of information and I doubt this is something that you would share with your senior leadership with all the detail, but it is important that marketing and medical are integrated on what those objectives are.

This example, I think, is a little bit easier, but really picking those four to five goals that you have for your KOLs, if it's regard to engagement, the experience, what they're able to do from that whole KOL community and then what all are you, what are your goals as a team on internal coordination? So these are some very specific examples for what the goals could be, and then how do you actually measure? Then by having this and keeping track of it, I would suggest on a monthly basis, this is something then you could even share with your senior leadership on a quarterly basis.

So, in summary, engaging KOLs really require an engaging approach. We know there are multiple trends and we just challenge all of you if you're sitting in a medical or a marketing role, are you keeping up with the trends? The five that I have shared, and if not, what are you doing about it? It's important to remember you must balance and coordinate those important elements while monitoring for the future. We all know it's about building partnerships, coordinating internally, personalizing those communications and taking accountability, but what's been a little bit different is that are you offering novel approaches.

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