What can a fairy tale tell us about MSL stakeholder engagement?

You probably remember the tale of the Sleeping Beauty.  King throws party to celebrate birth of daughter – with unforeseen consequences that last 100 years.

But what’s that got to do with stakeholder engagement?


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The king was desperately keen to invite all the right people to his party.  His courtiers.  Foreign dignitaries and the rulers of other lands.  Local councilors and people of influence.  And, of course, the fairies.

That’s where he went wrong.  By excluding the Bad Fairy (Why? Did he forget her or did he not want to have to think about her?) he brought down a curse that put his daughter, and the whole palace, to sleep for 100 years.  Thank goodness for the handsome prince willing to fight his way through the impenetrable hedge.

So easy to do.  So simple to see how he could have behaved differently.  And yet so many companies ignore the moral of this tale.  Which is:


Remember ALL of the people of interest.

Who are your people of interest?  We notice many MSL teams, and KOL research companies who are fantastic at focusing on the courtiers – all those clinical contacts that your medical affairs and R&D teams have got to know well over the years.

It’s a short leap to making sure you invite the foreign dignitaries – the other healthcare professionals who have broadcast their interest in your therapy area.  Those local councilors?   Mostly, but not always, they get remembered too – they’re the policy makers, payers, experienced advisory board members, weather-beaten consultants, as well as the ones who make the purchasing decisions.


Where’s the magic?

The people who bring the magic touch to your list of people of interest are the fairies.  And so often it’s the fairies, good and bad, who get forgotten by consultancies researching key opinion leaders, and MSLs just looking for ‘people to see, who will see’.

The good fairies will take your development strategy further and get your key messages to the widest possible audiences. Their names?   Campaigner.  Blogger.  Vlogger.  Activist.  Patient.  Carer.  Tweeter.   Peer-Influencer.  Journalist.

None of these appear in the traditional pyramid of influence. Few of them have hands-on clinical experience or purchasing authority.  But all of them have the power to help your medicine to establish its place in the therapeutic ecosystem.  Their influence is harder to measure but still vital.


What about the Bad Fairy?

Sadly, in the world of developing medicines, there’s more than one Bad Fairy.  The bad fairies can put your development and pre-launch campaign to sleep or surround it with a thorny hedge of overwhelming objections.

They are the naysayers and the negative commentators.  They may have strong views about another company’s drug.  They may favor an altogether different form of therapy.  They may dislike your company or distrust your methods.

Ignore them at your peril.

Leave them uninvited and some will work actively against you, while others will be a negative influence on your advocates.  Include them in your engagement campaign and you may be able to neutralize them, or convince them of the value of your drug.


How Thecosystems helps you live happily ever after.

We can help you make sure that even the bad fairies are never forgotten or ignored.  We’ve reimagined stakeholder research and engagement, and we know how to find all the people of interest for your drug.

Our app, Thecosystems, lets you see the whole therapeutic ecosystem that your product will inhabit.  You get in-depth profiles and a unique view on the interconnections of every person of interest, in an easy-to-use online tool, so you can be sure that you’re talking to everyone who matters.

From there you can identify networks and clusters, choose the people you need to talk to, plan your communications, make sure you’re delivering appropriate messages, and most importantly – track your interactions.

If you’d like to know more, call us.  No magic involved.


Peter Joshua


e: peter.joshua@thecosystems.com

t: +1 908 322 7061 or +44 1483 397580                                              www.thecosystems.com


* In 2017 Thecosystems is collaborating with the Medical Science Liaison Society across the globe, to help bring new perspectives to the field.  We’ll be in Shanghai in June, Las Vegas in September and London in October – come and say hello!

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