There is some debate in the aesthetics and beauty industry as to whether a key opinion leader (KOL) is the same as an influencer, after all both are capable of influencing our behaviour and decisions when it comes to brands, products, and services. In addition, some KOLs are social media influencers and vice versa! Each has an important role to play in an effective PR strategy as they scale the power of word-of-mouth and at Kendrick PR, we specialise in creating brand collaborations and building KOL profiles for experts in the beauty and aesthetics industry.
In this article our beauty PR experts explain everything you need to know about Key Opinion Leaders and influencers, including how to find the right partner for your beauty brand or aesthetics clinic.
What is a Key Opinion Leader (KOL)?
“A key opinion leader (KOL) is a trusted person whose expert advice is respected by others in their field. Key opinion leaders are authorities on a specific topic and are the “go to” people for their subject of expertise.”
The key adjective in the above definition is ‘trusted’ and it’s the main reason brands collaborate with KOLs, they add expert endorsement to your products and reputation. KOLs are a traditional PR and marketing tool, you’ve likely seen many on TV for example, when the local news interviews an expert on a court case, or a white coat clad scientist clarifies the capabilities of an innovative shampoo in its TV or magazine ad. This kind of expert endorsement is just as effective today and KOLs are regularly used by the media and brands alike.
What is an influencer?
“A person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.”
Similar to a KOL, an influencer can add serious credibility to your brand, and they have a large following or audience on social media which you can target with your messaging. When brands collaborate with influencers it is known as Influencer Marketing and is regarded as a highly effective PR tool in the beauty and aesthetics industry.
The key types of influencers
Social media influencers are typically categorised by the size of their following or audience. However, this should not be assumed to be their level of influence as its more important that their audience is engaged with their content rather than how many of followers they have. Here are the key types of influencers:
- Nano-influencers: 1,000 – 10,000 followers
- Micro-influencers: 10,000 – 50,000 followers
- Mid-tier influencers: 50,000 – 500,000 followers
- Macro-influencers: 500,000 – 1,000,000 followers
- Mega-influencers: 1,000,000+ followers
The role of a KOL for beauty brands
In the aesthetics and beauty industry a KOL’s key role is to add TRUST to a brand, product, or clinic. Marketing or collaborating with a respected KOL in a relevant field of expertise to your brand is often seen by consumers as genuine and honest – as a personal recommendation feels more credible and can be relied upon. This is even more apparent if the KOL is well-known to the public.
A KOL can help your brand in three key ways:
- Gain credibility through word-of-mouth marketing from a trusted expert
- Raise brand awareness and reach a wider target market
- Increase product sales and/or bookings
The role of influencers for beauty brands
Social media influencers typically showcase their own blend of expertise in their specific niche and present products they love from a variety of brands to their dedicated following. As a partner brand, you can not only tap into their niche audience but also their reputation and ethos.
Authenticity and transparency are critical with influencer marketing because audiences do not want to feel misled. In recent years, social media platforms have clamped down on disguised advertising, where influencers do not appropriately disclose whether they have been paid for a post or recommendation. Read more on this topic in our beginner’s guide to influencer marketing.
3 key differences between KOLS and Influencers
We now understand that KOLs and influencers can deliver similar benefits to brands by influencing prospective customers in a particular target market, however, there are three key differences to consider when deciding which you’d like to incorporate into your PR strategy. The key differences between Key Opinion Leaders and influencers are:
- Place of work: Influencers work online and make an income from social media whereas a KOL typically works full time in their area of expertise e.g. anti-ageing aesthetic treatments.
- Expertise: KOLs are experienced and respected in their field of expertise and spend the bulk of their time practising or participating in this area. Influencers are often topic experts (e.g. beauty influencers), but their predominant skillset is in social media and crafting messages via blogs, YouTube, Instagram etc.
- Audience: Influencers have a ready-made audience for brands to tap in to, they’ve often spent years building their following who are awaiting their wisdom and tips. A KOL may not have an audience on social media if they are not active online and there is no requirement for them to have a presence – their appeal is their expert knowledge and credibility.
However, even with the above being said it’s possible and likely that KOLs can become influencers and vice versa. There is often overlap, and the key is to find the right PERSON or people to support your brand’s PR strategy.
How to choose the right KOL or influencer for your beauty brand
We always recommend beginning with a set of campaign objectives when considering whether to collaborate with a KOL or influencer for your beauty brand or aesthetics business. For example, what are you trying to achieve? What are the markers of success? If you’re a new, innovative skincare brand, a KOL with significant expertise in dermatology could add weight and credibility to your messages and build trust quickly with your target audiences. Whereas a beauty influencer could help to raise consumer awareness and generate a buzz about your brand.
Collaborating with KOLs and influencers can be a very effective PR strategy, the key is identifying who is right for your brand and how you can work together. At Kendrick PR, we specialise in Brand Ambassador Management and Influencer Marketing! Our experienced team has a wealth of A-list celebrity, VIP, KOL, and influencer connections which we leverage as part of a strategic approach. We have a proven record for creating and delivering bespoke influencer marketing campaigns in an authentic, credible, and creative way to support brand profiling and sales as demonstrated in our client case studies. Please get in touch to book a complimentary discovery call with us and let’s discuss how we can create your winning PR strategy.
An award-winning beauty PR agency
At Kendrick PR, we thrive on creating winning formulas of strategic and tactical support for premium beauty brands, aesthetic clinics, practitioners and entrepreneurs. We lead with our values: passion, professionalism, and authenticity!
Founded in 2015 by award-winning communications expert Julia Kendrick, Kendrick PR are an experienced and passionate team who thrive on creating tangible success for every client. Since launch, we have delivered outstanding results for some of the industry’s most innovative brands and exciting entrepreneurs, such as ALLÉL, Debbie Thomas, The Private Clinic, Oxygenetix, and Medik8 – and we’d love to support your brand.