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May 23, 2022

Value in virtual: new recommendations for KOL engagement

Tech trends adopted under duress in the last two years are here to stay.
KOL engagement trends

Life science is an industry with a historical reticence to embrace new technologies. Compliance issues, budgets, and the perceived complexity of integration all stand in the way of the widespread adoption of digital tech. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the hands of many life science companies, and while virtual engagement platforms, telehealth services, and others were initially adopted under duress, these same businesses are now reaping the benefits.

This is a trend that Chris Zealey, Director of Science and Strategy at Sixsense Strategy Group, has witnessed firsthand. “We were doing some virtual engagements before COVID,” Chris explains, “but obviously that got very big during the pandemic. We actually heard about Within3 through a client who was thinking about getting a license.”

Sixsense is a strategy consultancy company that operates exclusively in the life science space and is a certified Within3 Virtual Engagement Partner. Working predominantly with biotech companies as they prepare for launch, Chris and his colleagues are familiar with the challenges life science companies have faced over the past few unprecedented years – and the role that virtual engagement has to play in addressing some of those issues. “A lot of what we did pre-pandemic were live engagements, advisory boards, roundtables – things like that,” Chris explains. “Pivoting to virtual and asynchronous was obviously a big ask from advisors.”

“I think the first advantage is convenience,” Chris adds. “If you can’t get all of your advisors in a room together it really is the best way of doing it – especially if there are global KOLs, or tons of different time zones.”

“We’ve now found that – coming out of the pandemic – physicians and patients actually prefer virtual.”

So what is it about asynchronous virtual engagement that appeals to patients and HCPs, at a time when travel and in-person meetings are opening up once more? “They actually prefer not to travel,” Chris says. “I don’t think it’ll ever go back to the way it was – we’re all very comfortable with virtual environments and the convenience that brings. Particularly physicians, who would have to take days off clinics to attend sessions.”

“I actually think that the virtual world is going to become a lot more popular for pharma companies.”

Within3 provides a convenient platform where HCPs, patients, and experts can meet, work, and collaborate across locations, time zones, and even languages. But a successful session requires expert session planning, design, and moderation. Chris and his colleagues are heavily involved in these stages, helping their clients achieve success via the Within3 platform. “The most important thing when designing a good session is to start with the objectives,” says Chris. “Our approach is always: what are we looking to get out of this? What does success look like? And what are we really hoping to get in terms of outcomes? That allows us to understand what sorts of conversations we need to have, and what sorts of questions we can eventually ask.”

“You can have the greatest technology in the world to get people engaged, but if you have bad session design or bad facilitation, they’re not going to have a good time.”

The user experience is of paramount importance to the Sixsense team, and effective session moderation plays a major part in that. “A successful moderator isn’t just there to ask questions or keep people on time,” Chris explains. “We actually involve all of our facilitators and moderators quite early on in the design process, and the reason we do that is that the role of a good facilitator is to understand where the client needs to get to. Essentially, what that conversation needs to yield versus what questions they need to ask.”

All of that hard work in session planning, design, and moderation results in valuable insights for Sixsense’s clients, enabling them to meet their session goals and develop robust go-to-market strategies.

“What we find by putting all that effort up front is that the quality of the insights is significantly higher. You learn things that you didn’t know you were going to learn.”

Clients and agency partners use the insights gathered in asynchronous settings to make informed decisions about their strategies. The output from these sessions is easily published and shared across teams so that different product teams can align on their projects, and because the feedback is available quickly, timelines are shortened. “I think the important thing…is not forgetting about the importance of reporting out from asynchronous sessions, actually looking at the information in a more strategic way,” says Chris.

Get another perspective on how asynchronous work is transforming KOL engagement trends from a Within3 expert.

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