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Do you have what it takes to be an opinion former?

May 26, 2016

In the battle for attention in this overmediatised world, opinion formers are in pole position.

At least this is the definition from my latest book How to become an opinion maker (published last year in Dutch by LannooCampus).


Why should you consider becoming an opinion former?

These days, companies, governments and organisations tend to communicate more and more and with greater agility too. Yet, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get traction in the media. Breaking news appears on social media sites long before spokespeople arrive at television studios.

That said, a select few seem to always have easy access to the news media: they are ‘opinion formers’. What’s more, they are afforded the time to analyse and express their opinions in-depth. And often they are even invited by the media (and sometimes paid) to do so.

What qualities do you need to become an opinion former?

Three key characteristics define successful opinion formers: they are trustworthy, inspirational and they are able to connect with people.

First you need to be an expert, so people can rely on your expertise. Without expertise you will never be considered a credible source by the media or indeed by your broader audience. You need to be seen as the authority in your field. Knowledge is power. It’s as simple as that.

Second, you need to be able to inspire people. You will need to build up your personal brand. That’s not only about how you look, but also about what you say. Here, disciplines like storytelling techniques, interview training and presentation skills come in handy. Of course you will need to publish a lot of opinions. You don’t have any excuse anymore thanks to the Internet. Free publishing platforms such as Opiniestukken.nl, which is owned by my friend Arnold Vonk in The Netherlands, gives opinion formers a chance to reach the masses.

Third, an opinion former needs to be a networker. Take Robin Wauters as an example. He wrote for popular tech blogs like TechCrunch and The Next Web. Now he has his own project, Tech.eu. He travels around Europe to find and interview promising Internet and technology start-ups. He attends trade shows, conferences and debates. It also helps to be listed as a speaker with agencies such as Bruno Duvillier’s Plateforme in Paris.

How to be picked up as an opinion former?

Ten tips for opinion formers to be heard:

(1) Publish opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines.

(2) Be a guest lecturer at universities and high schools.

(3) Participate in debates and roundtables.

(4) Work for top companies, universities or successful start-ups.

(5) Be an editor for trade magazines and blogs.

(6) Get membership with trade organisations.

(7) Write a book.

(8) Get quoted, win an award, get noticed!

(9) Review books and articles.

(10) Attend network events.

Want to be inspired?

Here is my list of popular opinion formers that became true opinion leaders in their fields of expertise. Are you next?

Follow, share and learn from the best... Chris Anderson(entrepreneurship), Paul Krugman(economics), Jim Carroll(innovation), Edward de Bono(creativity), Al Gore (environment),Tim Ferriss (productivity), Michio Kaku (science and technology), Seth Godin (marketing), Jeremy Rifkin(world economies), Michael Pollan (food industry) and Daniel H. Pink (business, work and management).


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