How to get the most out of KOL roundtables

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How can you get the most out of your KOL roundtable? With ever more communication tools available, Genevieve Robson provides some top tips to ensure your KOL meetings have maximum impact.

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) play a vital role in the effective development and marketing of drugs and medical devices. However, restrictions are increasingly being imposed on the ways in which medical directors and pharma marketers can access and engage with physicians. Pharma must ensure that all interactions with KOLs are focused on science and compliant with the ABPI regulation in the UK and relevant restrictions elsewhere in Europe.

The roundtable is a tried and tested method of KOL engagement, used throughout the industry to great success. So, in these times of reduced budgets and declining face-to-face time between sales reps and prescribers, how can you make sure you get the most out of your pharma-KOL interaction? How can you take a different approach to get the most out of this tactic?

The answer lies in excellent execution. Thorough planning of the activity means having a view to the final output from the very start. The roundtable is primarily a form of academic discussion. The nature of them means that they can allow people to participate equally and that observers of the roundtable can glean many opinions equally. Once the topic for debate and discussion is set, each participant has equal right to contribute to the discussion.


"Working within the restrictions and regulations imposed on KOLs make it a challenge to interact with them effectively..."


Most roundtables begin with a presentation of evidence, which is then debated. The doctors usually debate by examining the evidence given and adding their own experience and knowledge to assess how it should be interpreted.

Working within the restrictions and regulations imposed on KOLs make it a challenge to interact with them effectively and the most influential doctors have such packed schedules that they can barely spare the time to participate fully in sponsored events. However, with the right partners, the relationship can be meaningful and valuable.

Whilst KOLs will always form their own independent opinions based on evidence and experience, from the marketer's perspective you want influential medics to be aware of the latest research and data. This data needs to be top of mind when the KOLs have future discussion with media and other prescribers.

From the KOLs perspective, it's a great opportunity to present research, hear the opinions of other doctors and raise profiles amongst peers. It also gives them an opportunity to educate the pharma company about how they'd like to be interacted with and how their experience is translated in the industry. At the end of the day, it's about education, marketing, and helping pharma sales forces learn about what doctors want to hear.

Once you've got your KOLs there, you only have a small amount of their time so it's got to be a very quantifiable interface with high impact. This means you have to think about the best way to get more out of the event.


"Another top tip for executing effective roundtables is to locate KOLs who are already familiar with one another."


Filming your KOL roundtable means that it's not just a onetime interaction with doctors who are present. You can use a film of a KOL roundtable on your website, on relevant professional body websites and to reach even more doctors through online social channels. Clips of separate interviews can be used for internal education purposes and as support for your PR team. Whilst you can't influence what KOLs say on the day or in the future, sponsoring the roundtable gives the marketer the opportunity to shape the conversation.

Why not do roundtables online? Because nothing is ever as effective as an old fashioned face-to-face. Networking and relationships are built through personal contact. That cannot be recreated online. For full participation, an in-person meeting over dinner is best.

Another top tip for executing effective roundtables is to locate KOLs who are already familiar with one another. People who have met before are more likely to speak their minds than they are in front of strangers. Using an agency to recruit your KOLs means that it is more likely that your panel will have worked together before.

Keep in mind that the purpose of these meetings is to bring together a number of high profile doctors and specialists, in a relaxed atmosphere that will allow sponsors to brief them on new or interesting information that they may wish to incorporate into their media and other activities. Once this has been achieved, make sure there are on-going benefits to the activity by incorporating media coverage or video of the event.


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About the author:

Genevieve Robson is the COO of Streaming Well Ltd, a digital video producer and publisher specialising in medical, lifestyle, pregnancy and parenting information. Streaming Well produces and publishes evidence-based educational videos that help educate patients and inform healthcare professionals. Genevieve has solidified relationships with high profile medical professionals across Europe, and has built Streaming Well's extensive library of over 1000 videos.

How can you get the most out of a KOL roundtable?