In the world of marketing, gaining the trust of the audience is essential. Without faith, brands won’t appeal to customers, which, in turn, means their profits will plummet. However, the issue of trustworthiness is where KOLs can make a difference. When brands work with a relevant KOL, they can increase their credibility, acquire authority, and appeal to a broader audience.
The KOL acronym stands for Key Opinion Leader. A key opinion leader is an expert in a particular subject with exceptional credentials and, often, a track record of documented evidence of outstanding contributions to their sector. Their work may include research, studies, publications, books, and citations, among many other authoritative formats.
A person with the revered status of a key opinion leader is a trusted expert in their industry or on a specific topic. Moreover, the term “expertise” is crucial to the meaning and purpose of a KOL. With their expertise, key opinion leaders contribute to their industry and build an audience which they might achieve through publishing online journals, attending events, posting on social media platforms, and more.
While an average influencer can gain traction because of good communication skills, a KOL must have specialized knowledge and qualifications. Most of the time, they curate this knowledge over time, making a prominent name for themselves and earning respect in their field.
KOL in Marketing
Companies use KOLs as an effective influencer marketing approach. However, KOL influencers differ from the average blogger or social media influencer; a key opinion leader’s words are more credible and trustworthy, thanks to their expertise and experience, making them the perfect authority figure to endorse a brand or product.
Using a key opinion leader as part of a marketing strategy is all about building trust. Brand owners want their target audience to trust what their business sells. In doing so, they are more likely to create a positive brand reputation and, thus, increase sales. Having a KOL endorse a product or service is a quick, credible route toward garnering consumer trust.
For example, a pharmacist selling a specific medication will likely gain more customers if they have the backing of a key opinion leader. The confirmation from the KOL is enough to award the pharmacy – and the product in question – enhanced credibility, rendering this type of marketing worth the investment. The results are a boosted reputation, a higher ROI, and more sales.
How to Become a KOL
Many aspire to become a KOL; it is an excellent way to build an audience, earn income, and use expertise for good, not solely for profit. However, becoming a KOL takes time and hard work.
Professionals aspiring to become KOLs must attain ample knowledge in a subject, acquire relevant qualifications, contribute to their field, earn respect and authority in their industry, and grow a loyal following.
Below are several crucial steps to becoming a key opinion leader.
1. Define a Niche
A KOL is not a ‘Jack of all trades.’ Instead, they devote their time to a specific subject. Some KOLs specialize in multiple areas, but sticking to one is generally more manageable.
To become KOL, a person must define their particular niche. For example, a biology student may wish to become a KOL in a biological subject. In contrast, those with a talent in physics or mathematics might desire to narrow down an area in which their interest lies.
No matter the subject, becoming a thought leader in a given topic is vital to achieving recognition as a KOL. Ideally, the chosen area of specialization must be where a person’s interests and abilities lie, as they will likely study it for many years, perhaps even a lifetime.
2. Establish Connections
Making connections is an essential part of becoming a KOL. Budding KOLs must build a network of excellent minds in their field (or a similar subject), as it will allow them to foster an audience while earning a talent pool of individuals with whom to collaborate.
3. Build an Audience
Building an audience is similar to networking, except, hopefully, the audience will be larger. Aspiring KOLs must publish high-quality work on their chosen subject to create an audience.
Generally, there are a few options for publications; hopeful KOLs could publish journals, submit to relevant magazines, or even post videos on a social media platform. The channels through which they are most likely to attract an audience interested in their works are befitting.
Becoming well-established in a field and connecting with other thought leaders and an appropriate audience will take time. Most KOLs have years of experience before earning the high level of respect synonymous with the term “key opinion leader.”
4. Continue Discovering and Stay Passionate
KOLs receive respect because they have remained passionate about their subject over the years. They continued learning, studying, discovering, and publishing their works over long durations, attracting large audiences, authority, recognition, and trust.
Earning the KOL title is not a race; if aspiring thought leaders treat it as such, they will not become a well-respected KOL since part of that respect comes from years of experience. Therefore, anyone who dreams of calling themselves a key opinion leader in the future must dedicate years to studying, working in, and contributing to their chosen subject.
What Is Sunshine Reporting?
Sunshine reporting appeared due to the Physician Payments Sunshine Act – a law passed in 2010 before its full enforcement in 2013. The law states that pharmaceutical companies must disclose all payments to healthcare providers.
These payments might include research funding and consultant meetings, which all must be visible to the public. The goal was to ensure complete transparency regarding the finances between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers.
What Are the Sunshine Reporting Obligations of a KOL Under US Law?
Due to the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, it is unlawful for KOLs to receive compensation to endorse a medical product. Furthermore, all payments are visible to the public, ensuring a focus on safety and truth over money. The law encourages genuine KOL endorsement rather than paid-for advocates.
As well as affecting some of KOLs working relationships, the law also means key opinion leaders in the medical field must report payments. Monica Saleh writes in this article,
“In accordance with The Sunshine Act and anti-kickback statutes, medical affairs professionals cannot leave behind anything that would be considered to have value without reporting it.”
While this may prove a setback for some medical providers and KOLs, the act is there to ensure the best, safest, and most honest advice and products for the public.
A KOL is a highly trusted individual in a field. In terms of marketing, KOLs prove an extremely valuable asset to brands, as their endorsement means more than one from an average influencer or consumer.
To become a key opinion leader, a person must spend many years studying a particular niche while networking with other respected professionals in their sector and building a strong, dedicated following.