Engaging with key opinion leaders (KOLs) is especially critical to the success of the life science industry. KOLs are experts in their respective fields and provide industry Healthcare Professionals with influential insights, recommendations, and guidance. In recent years, the emergence of digital channels has transformed KOL engagement, creating a more complex omnichannel engagement ecosystem that requires personalized and tailored strategies that meet KOL’s individual needs. In this new ecosystem, the Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role is central and critical to success. They must be empowered to drive optimal KOL Omnichannel Engagement.
Industry surveys suggest many organizations are thinking about or seeking to pursue ‘omnichannel’ approaches.1 KOLOmnichannel Engagement, in this case, refers to the process of engaging KOLs using seamless, integrated, and tailored messaging through multiple channels, including face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, webinars, emails, and social media. This engagement ecosystem requires different channels for different scientific exchange needs at different behavioral stages, all based on the KOLs’ sentiment and preferences. 2 In addition, MSLs’ strong understanding of the regulations and collaborative approach offers leadership characteristics that are credible to their internal cross-functional partners. Viewed by KOLs as peer scientific experts in respective disease areas, MSLs are best positioned to guide the orchestration of KOL engagement on behalf of their organizations.
In today’s KOL Omnichannel Engagement ecosystem, the MSL role must be elevated as the center of cross-functional omnichannel engagement particularly in the Pipeline Education, Pre-Launch, and Newly Launched scenarios. During these critical phases, the field medical team plays a crucial and multifaceted role in delivering and exchanging the latest scientific information with KOLs. The MSL role can be further defined as the Profiler, the Expert, the Orchestrator, and the Assessor.3
The Profiler identifies the KOLs who are most relevant to the scientific strategy and gains a deep personal understanding of their preferences, interests, and unmet needs. The Expert provides context to complex and nuanced scientific discussions by delivering high-impact in-person and virtual conversations with KOLs. The Orchestrator coordinates and manages customer-centric engagement with the right channels and content while problem-solving with the cross-functional team. The Assessor reviews aggregated data and shares real-time insights on KOL sentiments, informs strategy, and assists in course modifications.3
Source: Optimize Your Field Medical Team for the Omnichannel World Workshop, MAPS Global Annual Conference, Mar ‘23
The insights generated during these early phases are extremely valuable in shaping the commercialization strategy before organizational ramp-up.
To ensure that MSLs are set up for success in these essential circumstances, they must be empowered to orchestrate KOL engagement within the cross-functional organization. Then, it is critical to invest in MSL-specific people, processes, and technology support to enable effective leadership.
People: Leveling up scientific narrative personalization is a key competency to develop and nurture.
MSLs require ongoing support to stay up to date on not only scientific and treatment advancements, but also the skills involved in content personalization using approved materials and channels. Preparing, assembling, and testing variations of scientific narratives that meet KOLs’ needs while ensuring global/local alignment is an important competency to hone. By elevating MSLs’ ease and comfort level in delivering personalized scientific exchange, they can be further entrusted to act as the agent of KOL personalization.2
Process: Ensuring transparent and coordinated cross-functional KOL outreach is a mandate for excellence.
The life science industry must also establish useful and sustainable processes that enable MSLs and internal teammates to collaborate and communicate effectively to ensure KOLs are met with coordinated touchpoints by their organizations. This commonly reported concern should incorporate transparent and compliant methods to incentivize and inform field-based and functional partners of who’s talking to whom, and when. Below represents a desired enterprise-level action plan to deliver engagement visibility and excellence, recommended by a large field medical workshop in March 2023 (n=70).4
- Audit within Medical Affairs and major KOL-facing functions if a governed orchestration approach based on launch lifecycle phases, strategic imperatives, and scientific gaps is aligned and mapped.
- Assess if internal enterprise CRM is pulling in necessary touchpoints across Medical Affairs, Commercial, and Research functions, then work to automate, fill the gaps, and close loops.
- Synthesize and relay applicable insights and analytical trends with consistency and expediency through a collaborative and sustainable communication model.
Technology: Arming field medical with modern and seamless technology capability, designed to optimize scientific exchange, is critical for success.
Finally, the industry must provide MSLs with an end-to-end scientific exchange approach required to overcome challenges felt and seen in today’s omnichannel engagement environment. How can we make the workflow simple and easy for MSLs to be the most effective scientific peer to their KOLs? Are guardrails automatically built into their workflows to enable assured customization? Can new capabilities deliver more tangible and real-time insights to aid their orchestration efforts? Let’s look at how we can provide a Scientific Exchange Platform tailor-made for MSLs’ content activation and KOL engagement needs. 5
MSLs are challenged to deliver optimal scientific exchange due to a variety of cross-channel workflow hurdles, content inaccessibility, and data gaps commonly seen and experienced today.5
Organizations should incorporate a modern and user-friendly Scientific Exchange Platform that’s designed for MSLs by MSLs, to unify critical work needs and leapfrog from existing siloed and legacy ways of working. This can help MSLs more effectively activate content and enhance KOL engagement.5
A critical requirement in assessing and selecting an optimal Scientific Exchange Platform is to ensure that the returned analytics is truly real-time, digestible, and useful enough to aid KOL engagement orchestration. Going beyond the basic meeting-level transactional metrics and aiming for deeper modular insights is a rapidly growing trend.6
Empowered MSLs, when armed with modern tools, training, and insights support that enable improved KOL omnichannel engagement and orchestration, can unlock tangible and meaningful potential for the individual, team, and organization – leading to more satisfied customers.5
To optimize KOL Omnichannel Engagement, the life science industry must first recognize the trusted and multifaceted MSL role as a key success factor. Then, the industry should clearly define its KOL omnichannel strategy, with the MSL in the driver’s seat to steward scientific narratives while orchestrating cross-functional alignment during the critical commercialization phases. Modernizing people, process, and technology platforms with strong communication practices can elevate and empower MSLs to deliver more effective KOL Omnichannel Engagement, ensuring that KOLs receive timely, coordinated, and personalized scientific information. This approach, when applied with a heightened design focus on customer-centric personalization, will result in an impactful KOL omnichannel ecosystem delivering better outcomes.
- Medical Affairs KPIs 2025, Synetic Life Sciences, May ‘23
- The MSL as the Agent of KOL Personalization, MSL Journal Article, Mar ’22
- Optimize Your Field Medical Team for the Omnichannel World Workshop, co-presented by Donnie Wooten Jr. Pharm.D., Kelly Lo, and Rosie Humphreys, at MAPS Global Annual Conference, Mar ‘23
- Building Medical Affairs Agility to Optimize Scientific Exchange Workshop, co-presented by Avni Patel PharmD., Wendy Kampman M.D., Kristy Grimm Pharm.D., Dave Gulezian MBA, and Jessica Wong MBA, at MAPS Global Annual Conference, Mar ’23
- The Power of The Empowered MSL, MAPS Webinar, Jan ’22
- Evolving Content Practices to Power Personalized KOL Engagement, MAPS Webinar, Oct ‘22
Jessica Wong, MBA
Jessica Wong is a seasoned marketer with >16 years of experience in the Biopharma industry across both US and global markets. She has held successive leadership positions and advised various organizations in launch strategy, digital health & scientific communications – in the context of product development and commercialization.
Jessica has implemented numerous mission-critical and user-centric services to enable HCP disease and therapeutic education, as well as patient treatment access/adherence support. The majority of these programs are in the oncology and rare disease areas, powered by robust digital analytics and multi-channel engagement.
Before joining Alucio, Jessica worked for Roche Pharmaceuticals, Genentech, Omnicom Advertising/Digital Agency Network, closer look digital & relationship marketing agency, and Accenture. She has an MBA in Strategy/Finance from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.