Digital Disruption in Pharma
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You Think "KOL" is a Toxic Term? What About "KSOL?"

You Think "KOL" is a Toxic Term? What About "KSOL?" | Digital Disruption in Pharma |

Q: How do you send a room full of seasoned pharmaceutical industry types diving under their desks and voluntarily autodefenestrating? (For those of you without pointlessly obscure vocabularies, that is the process of throwing oneself out of a window.)

Heard of a KOL? Of course you have, so what is a KSOL? Easy; a 'key social opinion leader'. These are people who have influence over and within a particular conversation topic. It might surprise you to hear that there are specific KSOLs in almost every significant therapy area in modern medicine. This means that a small group of people can be driving an entire conversation that periodically involves thousands of people.

There are specific KSOLs in almost every significant therapy area in modern medicine

How do we find KSOLs? There is software available to help you do this in a quick and dirty way, but for a more intelligent and in-depth search you need human interpretation. In a recent project, emotive identified a group of 12 European KSOLs within a specific therapy area who collectively had more than one million social media followers – significant power and clearly a group of people worth supporting.

It is impossible to write an article about social media in healthcare communications without talking about compliance – so here it is; 'compliance'. Done.

Only joking. Yes compliance is important, yes there are definitely things you cannot do, but there are also things you can. The best tip we can give you in a short piece of this nature is stop thinking about social media as 'content' and think of it as 'platform'. You have never been able to make off-label claims or give patients advice about their treatment, but you have always been able to talk to patients about disease awareness, and so it is with social media – content is king and the rules about content have not changed. We are not saying that social media comes without risks, that would be disingenuous, but with the right people supporting your efforts (and the right project justifying the tactic!) you can safely navigate the risks with the potential bounty of a viral campaign (a slightly unfortunate term for healthcare communications).

Pharma Guy's insight:

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of physicians deemed to be genuine medical experts believe the pharmaceutical industry should replace the term "Key Opinion Leader" (KOL). 

That was one of the insights gleaned from an inter-national online survey presented at the Medical Affairs Leaders Forum in Berlin, Germany, in February, 2015. The survey of 185 pharma professionals and 199 "real" KOLs was conducted by System Analytic, which is a company that helps pharmaceutical teams "identify, map, and engage with their medical experts and key stakeholders." 

This article summarizes the results of the KOL Name Change Survey and discusses how to change the underlying process by which pharma companies choose KOLs.

Topics (partial list):

  • What's a KOL Worth?
  • Expert vs. High Prescriber
  • The Dark Side of KOLs
  • Pharma's Opinion
  • If Not KOL, What?
  • Online versus Real World Popularity
  • Alternative Terms for KOL Preferred by Pharma Execs
  • Change the Underlying Process
  • What About "Key Patient Leaders (KPLs)?"

Link to full article(pdf):

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Digital Disruption in Pharma
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