Role of a thought leader in medico-marketing

Role of a thought leader in medico-marketing

Dr Shalini Ratan

Thought leader relationship management plays a critical role in medico-marketing. A review of this concept and guidelines for a successful thought leader programme.

In today’s scenario there is a shift from traditional marketing to relationship marketing in which the views of a thought leader needs to be given special consideration.

There is a critical role played by key opinion leaders (KOL), thought leaders (TL) and advocates in driving sales of pharmaceutical companies. Thought leader relationship management plays a critical role in successfully identifying unmet medical needs, plan clinical studies, product launches and understanding lifecycle management.

The role of the TL is to educate the medical fraternity about the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis and management of disease. They also throw light on the preclinical and clinical data on new drug entities. The most important aspect of having a panel of TLs is to provide thoughtful and convincing answers to the medical queries of the doctors by providing insights from their own clinical experience.

There are various steps in taking a thought leader on board.

  • Identifying a TL in a therapeutic area

A TL is a top opinion leader. He has the ability to drive the therapeutic segment and is considered to be an expert in his field by his peers. A TL is able to influence the clinical specialists on various therapeutic approaches. According to the industry experts, a TL preferably should be affiliated to various scientific bodies and have peer reviewed publications. A leader in his field has a broad influential acumen as they are the one’s to endorse the brands.

  • Development of a thought leader

TLs can be used effectively in various stages of a product development starting from the preclinical phase to Phase IV clinical trials. They also give valuable inputs throughout the product’s life cycle.

Some of the areas a TL touches upon are:

a. Identifying targets during the drug discovery process. b. Analysing animal studies for safety purpose. c. Mechanism of action of drugs. d. Designing early phase clinical trials. e. Views on safety and efficacy. f. Product launches and additional indications.

  • Managing relationship with a thought leader

Relationship of a TL with brand building is a long term process. It requires clarity of communication, credibility and integrity. The TLs should be clearly aware of the company’s strategies, key product information and data. A balance is to be maintained between the scientific and commercial focus. The companies can make a continuing medical education program unbiased on scientific information imparted by letting the TLs communicate what they think and experience. It is more important to focus on the strengths of our products rather than focussing on the weaknesses of the competitor’s products. The company should respect the professional integrity of the clinician by giving them ground to impart fair knowledge about the product.

  • Measuring effectiveness of a TL programme

It is by evaluating clinical development of the product and market acceptance.

For a successful TL programme we need to know the following:

a. Do we know all KOLs in our therapeutic segment? b. Do our KOLs also engaged by our competitors? c. Is our KOL increasing the value of our product strategy?

d. Are we able to evaluate and monitor the influence of our KOLs on the clinical speciality?

(The author is a medical advisor with a pharma MNC. She can be contacted at
These are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of her company.)