How to perform stakeholder mapping

What is stakeholder mapping?

Stakeholder mapping is the act of identifying who is influential in a therapeutic area and “mapping” these key opinion leaders (KOLs) according to their level of influence and interest (explained further under step 2). Once KOLs have been mapped, the next step is to develop an engagement plan which provides clear focus and objectives for the MSL. Stakeholder mapping and engagement planning can be achieved by following the simple steps outlined below.

How to perform stakeholder mapping and engagement planning

Step 1:

Identify people/organisations who are influential in the relevant therapeutic area. For the purpose of this article I am going to perform stakeholder mapping for a respiratory drug, called drug X that is being launched in Australia. The KOLs will be respiratory physicians and respiratory researchers based in Australia. The key stakeholder groups will be healthcare professional and consumer groups focused on raising awareness/advising on the treatment of respiratory disorders in Australia.

Desktop research (corporate speak for googling) can be used to identify influential KOLs using the following criteria:

· Respiratory guidelines in Australia – who writes them?

· Respiratory conferences in Australia – who is invited to speak/chair sessions/convenes conferences?

· Respiratory publications – who writes them? Who conducts research in Australia?

· Media articles – who is quoted as an expert when it comes to respiratory disorders in Australia? (utilise the “news” search function on google)

· Key stakeholder groups – who sits on the board?

Step 2:

Map KOLs according to their level of influence and interest.

· Influence - refers to their ability to persuade others/change beliefs/change behaviours of other health care professionals

· Interest - refers to the interest of a KOL in objectives that are aligned to the medical strategy of the business

For example, if the medical strategy includes an objective to get drug X reimbursed by the government, a KOL (example Prof. Z, who writes respiratory guidelines, publishes frequently and is regularly invited to speak at respiratory conferences) who also thinks drug X should be reimbursed by the government would rate high on the “interest scale” and on the “influence scale”.

Those KOLs who sit in the “high influence” sections of the map (blue and green squares) represent the priority KOLs for the MSLs.

Step 3:

Develop a KOL engagement plan. A KOL engagement plan is essentially a plan of who the MSL is going to see, when they are planning to see the KOL and what they are planning to talk about with the KOL i.e. the objective of the meeting. Take your KOLs from the upper quadrant and insert their names in the engagement plan first – these are your most important KOLs so you will want to see them more frequently than the other KOLs on your list. An engagement plan helps the MSL to assess priorities, plan external meetings and manage workload. The engagement plan is a fluid document and should be referred to and reviewed on a regular basis pending the availability of KOLs/changes in medical objectives.

Need more help figuring out how to write an engagement plan and set KOL meeting objectives? Check out our MSL Upskill Package.


KOL mapping and engagement planning are important processes for the MSL, that can be broken down into three simple steps. For more information on how to be an MSL, join our newsletter.

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