3 July 2018

There is a Right and a Wrong Way to do KOL Research

KOL interviews can be a fantastic resource to gain an expert insight in to, for example, an evolving therapeutic landscape, unmet needs or a new therapy class. However, if they are not recruited and conducted to a high standard the insights can fail to deliver, leaving more questions than answers.

Here are four factors which we consider crucial in executing successful KOL interview projects:

  1. Answering the question: do we really need a clinical KOL?
  • KOLs are usually at the cutting edge of research and instrumental in setting standards or care and therapy guidelines. However, their views may not reflect those of the wider clinical community. If the objective of the project is, for example, to develop a communication strategy for launch then interviews with a broader range of ‘everyday’ clinicians will provide a more accurate picture of clinical perspectives. In contrast if we are interested in understanding how new therapy classes compare, interviews with KOLs actively involved in clinical research with a high knowledge of latest advancements will provide much deeper insights. Alternatively, a payer or PAG KOL may have a greater depth of knowledge into a particular area and therefore be more relevant than a clinical source.

2. Recruiting KOLs de novo in-house

    • Whilst recruitment panels are a great resource for many market research projects they can often fall short of delivering top-tier KOLs. The recruitment of KOLs requires a more personalised approach to requesting and scheduling the interview, supported by an initial stage of secondary research. This research stage is key to identifying the most relevant KOLs with a range of likely views as well as providing a clear picture of their research interests, attitudes and company relationships. This ensures not only that we are targeting the right KOLs for interview, but that we are able to place their views into the context of their research work to help inform analysis and interpretation.

    3. Using a team who understands the therapeutic area

      • As with the recruitment process in-house expertise are extremely valuable. The interviewer should have a deep understanding of the dynamic, trends and recent activities in the KOLs area of expertise. This will enable not only relevant spontaneous probes to be asked but also inspire engagement with the KOL through demonstrating an understanding of the subject matter.

      4. Being respectful of the KOL’s time

        • In creating discussion guides for KOLs, we must bear in mind that often the top-tier KOLs may only be able to commit 20 to 30 minutes of their time. Discussion points therefore need to be prioritised so that we can extract the maximum value from these interviews with industry experts. This means asking questions which they, compared to an ‘everyday’ clinician, is more skilled to answer. Interviewers should also be familiar with the KOL’s research so that we are asking the most pertinent questions.

        If you have a business challenge which might benefit from KOL insights, please get in touch so we can discuss your needs and how we can support you.