Pharma and biotech companies routinely seek the opinion of leading academics and researchers, but interviewing thought leaders (more commonly known as Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs) is an art, rather than a science.
Qualitative pharma market research typically consists of a structured interview arranged around a discussion guide that has scripted questions and probes. In our experience, such an overly structured approach is often not optimal with top tier KOLs.
Remember, these are extremely busy people and if you are fortunate enough to gain a short period of time from them (we normally do this over the phone), you need to use it wisely or they will soon be bored, distracted, cut you short and move on – unless you pique their curiosity and engage them in something that holds their interest.
Our approach is to:
- Focus on a few strategic questions or key issues
- Have a moderator who is knowledgeable about the topic so that the interview comes across as a scientific conversation
- Be prepared to listen and adjust follow-on questions accordingly
On Pharma Strategy Blog, you can read some of the KOL interviews that Sally Church, PhD has undertaken with leading business executives, academic researchers and clinicians.
Some of the thought leaders she has interviewed as part of her excellent “Making a Difference in the Lives of Cancer Patients” series include Alain Moussy (CEO of AB Science) Susan Desmond-Hellmann (Chancellor of UCSF) and Charles Sawyers (MSKCC – winner of the 2009 Lasker Award, and likely future Nobel Laureate).