Engaging with important stakeholders remotely isn’t easy, but by combining the tech with empathy, we can use it to build the foundations of positive relationships.
Good connections with key opinion leaders and stakeholders are essential if we’re to understand the world as our customers see and experience it.
But how do you start out, in a new therapy area where you have no existing contacts or reputation? And if you can’t meet face to face, how do you build rapport and trust with people on a screen?
To begin with, remember that these things take time.
To find the right people to engage with, first do your homework, and take advice from more than one trusted person or source.
And while Covid restrictions in many countries are starting to relax, we’re realising that virtual advisory boards actually have some big advantages.
For a start, geography stops being a barrier when people don’t have to coordinate diaries and childcare so they can travel across the country to London or Birmingham for a meeting.
This has an immediate and positive impact on representation, though it’s by no means the whole solution.
At a recent Dovetail advisory board on C. difficile, we recruited a multi-disciplinary group of clinicians from across the country.
Importantly, we were able to include pharmacist and specialist nurse input, and to represent both large teaching hospitals and smaller trusts.
Typically, nurses in particular can find it difficult to get to national meetings since they often to have less flexibility. In a patient advisory group, the majority of recruits agreed that they wouldn’t have considered applying to join had the meetings been face to face.
They simply wouldn’t have been able to travel to London due to work and other commitments.
Lead times are shorter, since people need less notice when there’s no travel time to factor in. We’ve even had one clinician join a virtual meeting even though they were on annual leave – though we may see less of that in future, when people are able to holiday abroad again!
The challenge is to make the virtual experience engaging and interesting. At Dovetail, our view is that every interaction between pharma and clinicians should be as valuable an experience for the advisors as the company. So, while we always plan around the rational objectives and client deliverables for the activity, we’re also clear about defining experiential objectives.
When you’re working with external stakeholders, what do you want them to think, feel and understand about you and your organisation?
When meeting them for the first time, what impression do you want them to have?
Balance these questions with empathy and try to put yourself in the shoes of your stakeholders. Put simply, when you’re interacting with clinicians during a global pandemic, how might they be feeling?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that empathy’s a ‘nice to have’.
Communicating with empathy and openness helps audiences to hear what we’re saying.
Consciously adding empathy into the mix from the outset helps us make sure that our virtual meetings are a positive experience, rather than another heartsink video call for clinicians at the end of a long and challenging day.
So, take the time to consider where your customers are at, and plan a good experience that leaves them feeling upbeat.
You’ll know you’ve set the right tone when people engage candidly and constructively.
The insights gained will be much more valuable, and you’ll have laid the foundations for a long and happy relationship.
We’re always happy to help, so if you’re not sure where to start on planning your advisory boards with empathy,