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What’s a KOL—and do you want to be one?

Aug. 26, 2021
So you want to become a key opinion leader in hygiene? It starts with a deep love and interest in a particular topic or product—and being a mover and a shaker!

As hygienists, we educate our patients every day. Not only do we educate, but we’re also constantly being educated through the research we do to keep abreast of current information, which helps our practices level up continually. When we find passion for a specific topic, it seems that we try to read and research every single piece of it until it's perfected. It can be an exciting drive to know every detail about a specific topic.

When this happens, you'll quickly find that people in our profession start coming to you with questions on the topic because you've become the go-to. While being a go-to person is exhilarating, it’s also incredibly time-consuming because you must be on top of your game and know the current research. This is how some of our fellow hygienists became key opinion leaders.  If you're wondering how you can become a KOL, here are some tips from those who are rocking the KOL life.

What education do you need, and where do you look for openings?

Typically, KOLs have a bachelor’s degree at minimum, and often a master’s degree. KOLs are consistently building their knowledge on the topic they’re passionate about, so they typically have earned many additional certifications on that topic. Remember, KOLs are the go-tos, and they must have validity to back their messaging. Each company or position that KOLs represent will have its own list of minimum requirements that it wants a KOL to have. Typically, your brand, brand presence, and depth of knowledge are the critical points an someone is looking for. Each company and position is different.

How to get in? Build your network

According to treefrog, “One of the most powerful ways to express passion is through open, genuine, and relatable online posts. KOLs can demonstrate love for their specialty by writing exciting articles about new finds in their field, sharing promotional material for related events on Facebook, posting pictures of themselves in action on Instagram, and more. When audiences can see that a key opinion leader is consistently engaging with their area of interest, that person’s passion becomes believable.”1

Many great RDHs have built their KOL brands using social media platforms such as LinkedIn. For example, Katrina Sanders' KOL path is inspiring, as is Jasmin Haley’s. Jasmin has built an excellent brand and a pathway for all those wanting to start their own KOL adventure

Mary Govoni, one of the most successful KOLs today, shared this advice in a recent interview with me about those wanting to become a KOL. "Be realistic when working toward your goal. It’s not glamorous or easy, and it takes a while. It may take additional education, product knowledge, and networking."

Mary got her foot in the door when she networked with a local Meer Dental rep to become a speaker. She recommends that you find your focal point, make sure it’s in your comfort zone, and have a deep passion for it. She also says that being a KOL is a 24/7 job. You should be ready to answer lots of emails and interact with people often. Her favorite thing about being a KOL is meeting people, and the sense of community. She says the interaction with dental professionals never gets old. Mary is part of Compliance Divas, and she hosts a podcast on dental compliance about OSHA and CDC guidelines for all things infection control and safety.

When Mary teamed up with the Meer rep, she formulated a digital look book that included all her articles, websites, and links to her social media so that she could send a digital print of her overall brand to the company. She recommends people who are interested in becoming KOLs do the same, whether they reach out to the head of marketing or the professional education department. They can check out their favorite products, learn about the manufacturer of those products, and reach out to the professional development department or senior marketing manager. Then they can set up a meeting to find out how to become a KOL.

Your passion fuels your drive to be successful. We’re fortunate to have amazing RDHs who have already walked the KOL path. Start networking with them. The best thing about being a KOL is that you can start while you’re working full time. If it's in your heart, then go for it. Your influence and knowledge need to be shared so that the dental hygiene community can be elevated even further.

Additional resources

7 reasons why you should become a KOL/influencer

Why are KOLs important for your brand? (Aren’t they the same as influencers?!)

About the Author

Nicole Giesey, MBA, MSTPE, BSDH, RDH

Nicole Giesey, MBA, MSPTE, BSDH, RDH, is dedicated to researching, writing, and helping people in general through her current platform. She began her career as a dental assistant and then progressed into dental hygiene, then branching into dental hygiene education. With the opportunity to get into dental product management knocking at her door, she leaped into the world of dental sales. She is now a dental product sales representative and can be reached at [email protected]

Updated September 9, 2021