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Changing Dynamics of KOL Engagement During COVID-19

By 1 June 2020May 19th, 2022No Comments
KOL Engagement

Everyone wants to learn about and discuss COVID-19, right? It is true for HCPs and even truer for KOLs, as they are expected to have all the answers. But during the times of crisis, doctors need to be doctors first, and being KOLs, experts, or advisors to pharma companies becomes secondary to them. This has certainly changed the dynamics of KOL engagement, and it is going to stay that way in the coming time.

This tweet from an epidemiologist beautifully encapsulates the sentiments of HCPs across the globe.


Therefore, an obvious challenge for pharma companies is to continue engaging KOLs and other experts, when they’re busy fighting one of the biggest healthcare crisis ever and organizing physical seminars/conferences is not an option. You will need to alter your reasons and ways to engage with KOLs, to get the most and the best out of them.

Some pertinent data on KOL Engagement practices

Recently, Medical Science Liaisons Society conducted a survey on MSL activities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and it provided some interesting results regarding KOL engagement in the current scenario.

There were 659 respondents, which included senior MSLs, Managers, and Directors of MSLs. I am sharing a few of the significant results.

Survey KOLs

You can download the entire report from here.

It is quite evident from the above numbers that both pharma companies and KOLs are gradually adapting to remote engagement. Maybe, they were already moving in this direction, but COVID-19 has accelerated the process. Pharma should therefore consider the following aspects to achieve better KOL engagement.

Virtual KOL advisory boards are the “New Normal”

Remote interactions are being tried out by pharma companies at both small and large scales. Be it webcasting their roundtable discussions with KOLs or conducting virtual advisory boards, things are falling into place. It is a rational move, to say the least, as it involves no commutation or logistical challenges and provides an amplified and a relevant reach at the same time. As far as KOLs are concerned, their response to this ‘’new medium’’ has been encouraging so far, as suggested by the above survey.

That being said, Virtual Advisory Boards cannot be seen as regular webinars. Pharma companies should aim for real-time interaction among the advisory board members. Instead of KOLs giving those long monologues, there should be an active dialogue among all involved parties. KOLs should be able to upload call-to-action documents, presentation slides, or explainer videos to communicate with HCPs, all in real-time.

Moreover, a lot more emphasis should be laid on post-event analytics (measuring the success of their event based on relevant metrics). An end to end e-conference solution can certainly help.

But again, using a particular technology is just one side of the story. Pharma companies will have to push the envelope and change their mindset towards virtual conferences. KOLs are indeed comfortable doing synchronous (e.g. live videos) or asynchronous (e.g. comments) interactions, but they are not holding themselves back to explore different communication techniques and tools, to make virtual interactions more productive and diverse (as evident from the MSLS survey report).

So, it’s high time that you learned and embraced other collaborative ways, like co-creation of content, on-the-spot-polls, live review of poll results, etc. You should train your teams on hosting webinars and dealing with potential connection hiccups as well as on preparing presentations tailored for virtual meetings.

Focus on building a real relationship with KOLs and not a transactional arrangement

You won’t get a better time than this to have deep-rooted interactions with KOLs. So, it is wise to not come across as someone who is merely interested in a give and take affair. Priorities of HCPs and KOLs have changed drastically in the past few months, and an incorrect approach now could be counterproductive.

Here are some pointers to help you build a meaningful partnership

i) At this time, the least bothering way to interact with KOLs is to email them evidence-based information that they need right now to fulfill their professional goals. For example, you can email the summary and links of COVID-related webinars that you conducted recently. You can share resources related to Telemedicine (How it is evolving), or training modules and scientific updates that were to be presented at congresses (that got canceled due to COVID-19). Just remember – It’s about positioning yourself as a reliable source of information during tough times like these.

ii) Be considerate; reach out to KOLs to make them aware of your availability, but don’t actively try to schedule unsolicited meetings.

iii) As of now, HCPs mostly want insights on COVID-19, and KOLs need a platform to share their knowledge. So, it’s better to extend the necessary support to KOLs (via webinars and virtual conferences) who are “on the ground”and continuously in touch with healthcare workers (who are at the frontlines). Of course, you can engage with KOLs for other purposes (expounding non-COVID drugs) as well, but to bring a higher degree of relevancy in your partnership, it’s better that you set COVID-19 as the context. For example, you can work with a Virologist who has a strong presence in one of the hotspots. You can conduct a remote webinar with him/her and webcast your event on a platform like Docplexus, to interact live with HCPs from relevant Therapeutic Areas.


Adapting to technology and focusing on building real relationships via virtual communication, are key takeaways for pharma companies (for KOL engagement). It’s about winning someone’s trust with written words. So do your homework and try to understand the psychology of KOLs as much as you can. This will help you big time.

At Docplexus, we are executing this contemporary form of communication with a clear vision and utmost planning. We have in fact hosted 100+ webinars in the past two months, partnering with prestigious medical associations and the industry. Just to give you a glimpse, here’s the highlight reel of our webinar with The Indian Association of Gastrointestinal Endo-surgeons (IAGES).

If you have any queries on how we conduct webinars and e-conferences, then feel free to reach us at 9881969598.

Docplexus – Pharma’s Trusted Marketing Partner

Docplexus is the largest digital network of doctors in India & a trusted marketing partner of pharma & medical device companies. We empower our industry partners to meaningfully engage with the medical community through data-driven, evidence-based marketing & brand management solutions such as Infocenters, Mindset Analysis, KOL Webinars, Sponsored Medical Updates, Online CMEs & more.