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22.03.2022 | Health Strategy

14 ways pharma can engage HCP Digital Opinion Leaders

By Katie Kennedy

Additional ways of engaging with HCP Digital Opinion Leaders and essential thinking have been added to this article since it was original written in 2017.

Having written a number of articles around the topic of identifying your healthcare professional Digital Opinion Leaders (HCP DOLs), I thought it was time to address another key question which I am often asked when speaking to pharmaceutical clients: once we have identified our HCP Digital Opinion Leaders, what do we do next?

The concept of an HCP DOL is becoming more commonplace and we support our clients to find the best way to engage with influential online HCPs once they have been identified – or even whether to engage them at all. They are accepted as just as important as traditional Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), but how do you go about engaging with them in the right way?

We see an increasing number of pharmaceutical brands who have started the process of DOL identification but are left disappointed, with a list of potential DOLs but no support on what they should be doing to start to build relationships with them in a compliant way. 

From the start of a project like this it is important for us to help teams think about how they would like to be engaging with their HCP DOLs at the end and what steps they need to take to get there. We have been helping pharmaceutical companies with their HCP engagement strategies for the past 20 years. Based on our experience and expertise, here are some ideas on how to best engage with your HCP Digital Opinion Leaders:

  1. Run a training course specifically for your HCP DOLs to educate them in an area they may be expressing a lack of certainty about. They could then be empowered to share the learnings with their followers.
  2. Provide educational resources published in their preferred format which they would be able to easily digest and repurpose.
  3. Be where your HCP DOL customers are by finding out which congresses they are attending, which sites they are using and which social media platforms they are on. That way you can focus your outreach to them in the right place.
  4. If you decide to send field reps to engage with your HCP DOLs you can provide them with personalised insights for each DOL to ensure your sales reps are discussing the topics and areas that matter most to them.
  5. Some of your HCP digital opinion leaders may turn out to be in roles that you do not traditionally engage with. If they are leading and driving the online conversation in your therapy area this could be a chance to re-think that?
  6. Correct any misinformation you see your HCP DOLs sharing. If they are saying something which is incorrect this could spread very quickly.
  7. Assist your HCP DOLs with developing a new social media channel / community for their therapy area.
  8. Develop your relationship with those HCP DOLs who you now know are your advocates.
  9. Amend your messaging based on an understanding of which HCP DOLs are advocates for your competitors and why.
  10. Run your own digital-only conference encouraging your HCP DOLs to spread the word.
  11. Go live in a video collaboration with your HCP DOLs. Here’s a good example from J&J.
  12. Host a Twitter chat with your DOL chairing the questions.
  13. Pre record an interview with the DOL and share it on social media, encouraging the DOL to also share with their community.
  14. Work with your DOL to engage HCP peers through a Twitter poll or chat

Some of the ideas here might seem daunting in the regulated pharmaceutical industry, so we recommend that you envision your compliance colleagues as you develop your DOL engagement plans and embrace the DOL paradigm shift needed. If you would like help with that, ask us about a facilitated HCP Insights Workshop or attend our webinar on pharmacovigilance in HCP social media listening.

Every project we support comes with an individual tailored DOL engagement strategy aligned with your business goals. Not every option mentioned here will suit a brand team but, with the right initial research, we can find the strategies that would be most valuable for you. For more information on activating Digital Opinion Leaders and understanding the influence of DOLs and how they compare to more traditional Key Opinion Leaders, why not register for our on-demand webinars:

Activating Digital Opinion Leaders 2.0:  

 Digital Opinion Leaders are the new Key Opinion Leaders:

View all articles >

Meet the Author

Katie Kennedy

Katie has a background working within health organisations and continues to champion the work we do at CREATION.co amongst our current and future clients.

When not at work Katie enjoys being a mother to her two little girls, a dog, a cat, and a tortoise.

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