As competition skyrockets in pharmaceutical development, so does the importance of stakeholder engagement. However, pharmaceutical groups can no longer simply see stakeholder engagement as a strategy for successfully moving an asset through the pipeline (although this is certainly true). Project managers and executives should also now consider stakeholder engagement as part of their risk management processes to maximize the potential for launch success.

Defining the potential of stakeholder engagement and pharmaceutical communications Not surprisingly, relationships with stakeholders support multiple processes from early asset development to post-launch. On the one hand, actively and accurately identifying all stakeholders is an exercise in social responsibility and engagement. On the other, key stakeholder buy-in is the best way to secure a smooth, predictable market execution.

But the truth is that effective stakeholder management can also fall soundly into the category of risk management. Stakeholder engagement can 1) help an organization avoid underperforming from inadequate market diffusion, and 2) bolster contingency planning through an effective foundation of trust and mutual goals. Put another way, stakeholders have a stake in your product by definition, and therefore are interested in its success. A few ways targeted stakeholders can help mitigate risk include:

  • Payers require robust evidence of superiority to existing assets and generics, thereby reducing the risk of underperforming at launch
  • Patients and providers can help prevent poor market reception by releasing information regarding the convenience or practicality of an asset (especially in the context of competitors’ developments)
  • International regulatory stakeholders can help to ensure global approvability for assets positioned for a multinational launch

Practically applying stakeholder relationships to risk management If stakeholder engagement is to be seen as a practice in risk management, it’s essential that executives build engagement processes directly into management activities. Doing so will align a pharmaceutical organization with these processes in the same exact way as it would its traditional risk management practices. This idea involves adopting diverse and novel KPIs. Naturally, ROIs are already part of your pharmaceutical development and KPI's. But you can go further to quantitatively measure stakeholder engagement and satisfaction.

Balancing stakeholder needs vs. development needs Arguably, treating stakeholder relationships as elements of risk management makes their relationships all the more critical — meaning companies should take a closer look at the needs of these relationships. However, these must remain in balance with development needs to avoid compromising the asset (or other stakeholders). In a 2013 study, researchers found that striking a balance between satisfying stakeholder needs and obtaining necessary information from stakeholders yielded the highest-quality information while achieving positive stakeholder engagement.

It's important to maintain a bird’s eye view of all asset development processes, but through the lens of risk management and stakeholder relationships, the patient experience cannot be overlooked. Fortunately, postmarketing stakeholder engagement also helps to improve patient access, which serves as an important indicator in itself. It also improves the patient experience and engagement with the asset post-launch.