The intersection of KOLs, advocacy groups and social media in the age of the COVID-19 crisis

The “critical triad”

This past fall, we published a blog post titled “The Power Network: Intersection of KOLs, Advocacy Networks, and Social Media.” As the world is currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic, we realize that these principles are as important as ever. 

As we have already stated, engaging the right stakeholder network is an integral objective for organizations in life science. While most healthcare executives already realize the need for identifying and mapping clinical key opinion leaders (KOLs), many are missing the fact that this is only a small piece of the integrated network that is critical to engage. In fact, extra value can come from a well-structured analysis of the KOLs PLUS advocacy organizations and even patient key opinion leaders (PKOL) who are noted social media influencers.

This “critical triad” of KOLs, advocacy organizations and PKOLs is critical for commercialization of life science products but the integration of these entities delivers even more value. In our prior post, we highlighted an example that depicts the inter-connectivity between KOLs, advocacy organizations, and PKOLs augmented with the use of social media among all three entities. When charged with understanding the stakeholder landscape for kidney disease, our team scoured the earth to find the entities that would bring these various perspectives together while gaining important insights such as alignment of efforts, reimbursement, social media universe, guidelines, patient and clinician education efforts, publications, and of course, disease state interest. Building the network involved linking all of the key entities.

The role of stakeholders during a pandemic

Now, let’s switch gears and focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, where organizational collaboration is integral. As I am holed up at home in the US, I will use the US as an example. While the Centers for Disease Control is at the helm, regular communication with World Health Organization is necessary to understand the data and best practices on a global level to optimize the approach. Another critical element is the partnering and collaborating with the leadership and boots on the ground within fifty individual states to ensure that public health leaders, health care professionals and patients have the equipment and information they need. 

To some extent, we are witnessing that along with government leadership, individuals KOLs are being called upon the communicate at multiple levels including a strong presence on social media. 

We are also seeing continued work to attempt to cure, curb and prevent the virus as well as ensuring that accurate and science-based information is communicated on a widespread basis. That is where the “critical triad” comes in. Tireless research efforts, communication and guidance throughout this pandemic have relied on this stakeholder network. Furthermore, the power of social media has never been as evident as it is today. In fact, social media has played an essential role in connecting the various parties who are working to ensure unified communications COVID-19 pandemic. 

During a pandemic, clinical KOLs range from experts at the WHO, individuals such as Dr. Anthony Fauci to public health experts at the state level and those who are continue to conduct research and gather data. Leaders in the scientific community have been conducting COVID-19-related research and include Ralph Baric, UNC-Chapel Hill; Lan Ying Du, New York Blood Center; Christian Drosten, German Centre for Infection Research; Wenjie Tan, NIVDC; Malik Peiris, the University of Hong Kong; among others.

Advocacy groups must also play an active role in the response to COVID-19, advocating for sick leave, closure of schools and businesses, better opportunity for vulnerable populations, and more. In addition, PKOLs and advocacy groups along with clinicians on the front lines, have taken to social media in an effort to share the facts and the reality on the ground, with the wider population and connect with them. Social media should even being used as a tool for gathering information when necessary.

Leveraging the inter-connectedness the “critical triad” comprised of professionals, patients, advocacy groups and the power of social media is a proven element to a successful product strategy. It is just as powerful in a fight to maintain the public health in this terrifying time.  Stay safe!

Some useful resources to share:

Centers for Disease Control:

World Health Organization:

Snowfish is a strategy consulting company that for almost two decades has been entrenched in the therapy industry. We are often called upon to help our clients think in new ways, whether it is their approach to stakeholders, advocacy or other critical areas. We have also supported life science companies with vaccine development.  Please reach out to us at to learn more 


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