In an increasingly competitive and dynamic startup landscape, success and achievement extend beyond delivering high-quality products and services. Startups interested in disrupting and dominating the market need to embrace thought leadership, where the ability to shape conversations, influence perspectives, and lead the way forward is critical to elevating brand awareness. 

As a startup founder, establishing yourself as a thought leader is more than a personal achievement. It also serves as a powerful boost to your startup’s reputation and revenue potential. 

So, what is thought leadership?

Defining thought leadership is no easy feat. In fact, we’ve previously written about thought leadership and delved into its significance before. While ‘thought leadership’ once may have prompted skepticism among startup founders and marketing professionals, seen as a ploy for self-praise or a promotional tactic, the term has since matured and its definition has broadened to surpass earlier perceptions. Thought leaders are viewed as experts in their field, uniting their passion and deep knowledge of their industry and clients to build brand reputation and credibility. 

How thought leadership benefits your startup

Becoming a thought leader lends credibility and authority to your entire business, which can extend beyond professional circles into the digital world. For example, thought leadership can contribute positively to your online presence and SEO efforts by enhancing your online visibility. When executed right, thought leadership can be a multifaceted asset to your startup, allowing you to differentiate yourself from a crowded market, gain customer trust, and even attract investor interest.

Read on to explore our thought leadership tips curated for startup founders and marketing professionals. 

Have a strategy:

Developing a strategy for your thought leadership content will help you set the foundation for becoming an established thought leader. Your strategy should include a combination of goal setting, content creation, result measurement, and competitor analysis. With so much noise in the digital space, approaching thought leadership from a strategic lens will help ensure your content is aligned with your company goals and focuses on topics and events relatable to your company’s offerings. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, having a thought leadership strategy is critical to building brand equity over time. 

Editorial Calendar:

Planning your content at least three to six months in advance, and sticking to it, will help ensure you have a consistent and well-thought-out publishing schedule. Your editorial calendar should contain various opportunities for engagement, spanning owned media to sponsored content. Consider incorporating collaborative projects with fellow founders, industry experts, and influencers to enhance the overall diversity and impact of your content strategy. And don’t limit yourself to just one channel and type of media. Providing a wide array of leverageable content will help you remain at the forefront of your target audience’s awareness.

Know your audience:

Any content you share should be tailored to resonate with your target audience. Sure, you’ll need to write about your products and experiences however, prioritizing the wants, needs, and desires of your target audience will help your content land home. For example, consider optimizing your LinkedIn profile by sharing regular updates on industry trends and actively engaging in relevant discussions. The LinkedIn platform is focused on business and professionals, making it a prime channel to spotlight your thought leadership content.   

Make it personable:

Although thought leadership involves a certain level of expertise, at its core, it revolves around authentic storytelling. As a startup founder, humanizing your journey – the challenges and victories – helps establish your company as a trusted authority. Consumers connect with real stories, so being authentic and transparent about your entrepreneurial  journey and sharing your knowledge will help you earn the trust and respect of your target audience. 

Pursue earned thought leadership:

Contributing to third-party publications without overtly promoting your product or service is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader. While not every third party will allow this, the best strategy is to research publications whose audience needs overlap with your expertise.

Sponsored content:

Swyft frequently recommends sponsored expert contributor programs as part of thought leadership for startup founders. Sponsored content options on reputable contributor platforms like Forbes, Fast Co, and Entrepreneur will allow you to improve your brand’s visibility by leveraging their high ranking for SERPs and keyword searches. While most contributor programs lack a do-follow backlink so important to SEO, they do provide a powerful bread-crumb trail back to your website that will result in traffic and improve your lead-gen efforts over time. Many of these programs allow for up to 12 articles to be published over a calendar year, so be prepared to commit to them with compelling, high value content.

To ChatGPT or not:

Whether you opt to use ChatGPT or similar services, you’ll want to ensure the content you receive isn’t too generic, adds value, and showcases your original ideas, point of view and unique brand persona. We recommend having a thorough edit process in place to guarantee value, originality, and readiness for sharing. If, however, you plan to submit articles to media outlets as sponsored or earned content, then you would be wise to read the editorial requirements of the recipient news outlets as many require non-AI generated content. If you violate the policy and they somehow figure it out, you run the risk of being blacklisted with that publication. If the ease of using AI to generate baseline content is too tempting to pass up, then be prepared to do a major re-write to make the piece look, feel and sound like your own voice; it’s possible that some media outlets are running software that can spot cues that content has been generated by an AI engine. At the end of the day, AI generated content may be better suited for use on your own website rather than sharing with influential 3rd party news outlets as part of a program of thought leadership for startup founders. 


It’s no secret that thought leadership has become an essential piece of B2B marketing strategies, placing human expertise at the center of conversations. Thought leadership is a powerful tool for startup founders, and by sharing your unique insights, experiences, and expertise, you elevate your brand while also contributing to the growth and development of your industry. We encourage you to embrace these tips, stay authentic, remain consistent, and watch your thought leadership journey unfold. 

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

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