How to Become a Key Opinion Leader in Your Field
Previously we discussed the advantages of becoming a key opinion leader in your industry, and why it was a strategic career objective. Few people in the corporate world have guaranteed job security. Unless you are a money making machine for the business, anyone is dispensable. Having wide industry recognition is like having $10 million in your bank account, everyone is your friend and you choose opportunities on your own terms.
Here are key attributes to obtaining KOL status in any field:
1. Be Credible
2. Have Something Interesting to Say
3. Be Interesting
4. Build a Following
5. Always Self Promote
This article will focus upon the steps one can take to build a road map towards achieving credibility and obtaining key opinion leader status. Every person’s road map will turn out differently, but the milestones mentioned below can be sign posts along your way.
- Work for the one of the top 3 companies in an industry niche at some time in your career. Success is like poison ivy, it rubs off on people who touch it. Early in my career I worked for 2 different marketing vice-presidents at two different SMBs, both of whom had lowly middle management positions with the same previous employer. Their ticket to instant senior management: that previous employer happened to be Disney. Leveraging someone else’s brand gives you instant credibility, the type of credibility a KOL needs to have.
If you already passed up your opportunity with one of the top 3, there are other career possibilities that will give you instant credibility: join a successful start up, write for an industry publication, or work for a respected consulting firm. If you come from a investment banking or accounting background you also bring a certain level of credibility.
- Be true to your word. Credibility begins and ends with your word.
- Know your buzzwords. Every profession has its buzzwords. Know them and use them correctly; vocabulary establishes validity.
- Read and stay informed. Spend 1 hour a day keeping up with your industry. Pay special attention to who is coming and going with the major companies in your field. Send out emails to those you know, when appropriate. When you do meet a power broker you’ve been tracking, your conversation will be from the vantage point of familiarity.
- Want to be a key opinion leader? Know whose opinions you should respect.
- Get certified. Every industry has its own set of credentials. Make sure you spend the time and money to get certified in as many as you can. Those letters they place after your name in conference biographies spell “instant credibility”.
- Be active in a respected industry organization. One of these groups will ultimately become your power base. Be active, if you can, at the local chapter and build your reputation with the central leadership. It’s at their national conference where your important networking will occur. Use your organizational contacts to get introductions to (other) leading KOLs and industry power brokers.
Don’t have the time and money to be involved with an industry organization? Well I’ve rarely heard an employer respond ‘no’ when an applicant states during the hiring process ‘I’m an active member of an industry group, will the company continue to pay for my membership and annual convention attendance. I’m on the organizing committee.”
- Build your network. It’s sufficient to say that the more you can name-drop, the more credibility you have. Think back to every “Do you know Mr. Smith, he was at that company when they launched that marketing disaster” conversation you ever had, and you’ll understand how important your contacts are. The ‘Who do you know’ game quickly establishes where you fall in the industry pecking order, and your relative credibility.
- Write articles for industry publications. Leverage your trade connections to get articles published in the leading periodicals and websites in your field.
- Comment on popular industry blogs and forums. Be a good community member and participate in popular forums and on industry-related thought leaders’ blogs. Acceptance as an active online community member brings you respect and builds your network.
- Write for a blog. At some point you may want a venue to express your opinions. Running a blog is a good platform for your developing your writing skills, sharing ideas, and for building your industry network. Variations on this tactic include writing op-ed pieces and being a contributing member to a multi-author website.
- Write a book. Nothing says credibility more than 70,000 words on a single subject. Don’t have a book deal yet? Start with an e-book or self publish. Many times the general community won’t know the difference between getting self published and getting a paid book deal. Sometimes you may make more money publishing a book yourself anyways.
- Present at industry events. This is the bread and butter of most key opinion leaders. Every presentation you make is big road map sign proclaiming “I’m a thought leader in this industry”. It’s also how you will sell that book we mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- Get quoted in the general media. You are really somebody when your Mom and your boss’ spouse see you on TV. Strive to become a source for the reporters who cover your field for general business periodicals like the Wall Street Journal. Most now have published email addresses, strike up a conversation with them. You may also want to check out Haro.com.
- Participate on industry panels. You are well on your way. Panels are the coronation ceremony of KOL-dom.
KOL, thought leadership, and beyond. Now you have entered the realm of weekend strategy seminars, consulting contracts, government panels, and board of director memberships. Congratulations, you’ve made it. Let’s do lunch sometime.
© 2010 MoneyandRisk.com all rights reserved