When two companies share the responsibility for promoting a drug, there’s always the potential for tension. Visions may not align, priorities may compete, or personalities might not mesh, but by preparing for the alliance with the following tips in mind, you can help smooth the process.

Make time for a meet-and-greet. It’s easier to collaborate with people you know and who know you, so take the time up front to match faces and names. Bring everyone together — including both marketing teams and all agency partners — consider a lunch, dinner or team-building activity (bowling, anyone?). Once you allow for an initial getting-to-know-you period, integrate your medical, legal, regulatory and marketing operations teams into the getting-to-know-you process. Be sure to allow enough time for the stakeholders to interact and connect — group activities go a long way in team building. But you can’t stop there; you need strong ongoing communication across stakeholders and agencies to keep everyone aligned, which, in the long run will save time and hopefully, build stronger relationships.

Decide who does what, and put it “on paper.” When everyone clearly understands their roles and responsibilities, things tend to move much more smoothly. In order to facilitate that, make sure everyone understands everyone else’s strengths and that internal stakeholders are clear on each person and teams’ expertise and area of responsibility – including your various agencies. One way to get everyone on the same page is with a RACI, which identifies specific roles in terms of who is “responsible, accountable, consulted or informed” for each decision. Once agreed upon, this collaboration rulebook sets expectations and identifies accountabilities like who’s responsible for the legal/medical/regulatory submission of a shared project, who makes changes if they’re needed after submission, and so on.

Instill a culture of information sharing. It seems obvious, but transparency is key in co-promotion, so set the expectation upfront that partners will expediently share information, including materials, lessons learned and changing timelines. For example, by immediately and broadly conveying the outcome of an MLR review, there’s a better chance that future reviews will be streamlined, fewer partners will be frustrated, and the whole process can be accelerated. Encouraging your agency partners to speak directly to one another will cut down on the time it takes to get work done, but you can avoid he-said/she-said roadblocks by having regular calls or meetings in which all players are represented.

Collaborating with new team members – whether internally or externally – can be challenging at first, but if you take the time to get to know your team, agree on who will do what and when, and be sure to keep lines of communication open, the rewards will be well worth the time and effort!