Key Opinion Leaders, Thought Leaders and Key External Experts (KEE) have, for many years, been the clinicians, pharmacists and healthcare professionals working within the health service that have led best practice in their field and influenced disease management amongst their peers.
Clearly if such a person happens to also be an advocate of your medicines and brands a relationship between the pharmaceutical company and the KEE is mutually beneficial. So beneficial that some have questioned the ethics and impartiality of the relationship no matter how impeccably individuals and companies have behaved.
The ultimate response from some has been to stop any sponsored advocacy by KEEs and these companies are now looking to create their own Key Internal Experts (KIE) – fully employed clinicians, pharmacists or scientists who are subject matter experts in relevant therapy areas. Their role is to really understand the data and disease management trends.
The challenge is how to transform a company therapeutic expert into somebody that healthcare professionals will trust, believe and relate to. And this requires far more than just a deep knowledge of the therapy area and product data, it also requires the right skills and attitude.
Imagine a KIE being represented by a library. To be effective clearly you need content, the books, and the more comprehensive the knowledge the better. But a library also needs to be accessible, the doors wide open and welcoming, the books organised, sign-posted and understandable just like the communication skills of the KIE. And finally the staff and the audience need a curious mind and trusting attitude if they are to take full advantage of the resources on offer.
So how do you create a Key Internal Expert?
Start with the fact that KIEs must have unparalleled knowledge of their field, the relevant therapy area, product and clinical data. This is often one of the key recruitment criteria for a KIE but knowledge is actually one of the most straightforward qualities to develop via reading, research and symposia.
A greater challenge is to develop the three effective communication skills that are required to unlock the doors to that wealth of knowledge. 1) KIEs must be able to create trusting one-to-one relationships if they are to discuss and debate, challenge and inform. 2) Equally important is to take that engaging confidence into Advisory Boards and disease management meetings whether it is to chair productively or to participate fully. 3) And finally, as the conference platform beckons, they need to be able to command an audience so that the data comes to life in a compelling and convincing way.
Knowledge and skills are important but what truly differentiates a KIE is their attitude and this is less easy to train or develop. Your challenge is to recruit, coach and develop your most talented people so that they have positive, enabling beliefs in the product and brand as well as the data, the importance of the therapeutic area and the value of their role.
Equally important is an empowering, internal self-belief. An identity level confidence that enables peer to peer relationships, a belief in the right to be heard, to challenge and debate for the greater good of the patient.
Recruit people with the right Attitude and then the Skills and Knowledge can easily be trained.