Why Startups Should Consider a Thought Leadership Strategy

By Maggie Markert

Most startups and early-stage companies cannot rely on press releases alone to drive their media relations strategy and corporate visibility. As new companies, often pre-product, startups are rarely able to generate enough news to warrant a continuous flow of press releases, which means any momentum generated from hard news is left to wallow. However, all is not lost. What startups, especially those in tech or biotech, often have to offer is innovation and thought leadership – tackling a problem from a different angle or creating a new approach or technology to address a critical market pain.

Thought leadership as part of a startup’s communication strategy is smart. Thought leadership gives a voice to your innovation and can be a great way to elevate your visibility and industry presence.

What Is Thought Leadership in PR?

Thought leadership is a public relations strategy that enables you to position your company and its subject matter experts as industry thought leaders. When used as part of a broader communications strategy, thought leadership enables media coverage without hard news (e.g., a press release), as well as other avenues of visibility, such as speaking engagements and awards.

Thought leadership typically involves:

  • Offering expertise on key topics or trends from one of more executives
  • Developing bylined articles on industry trends for trade publications
  • Securing speaking opportunities at key industry shows and conferences
  • Publishing original research or data through surveys, white papers, internal metrics or other reports
  • Providing industry commentary through one or more active social media channels – blogs, LinkedIn, Medium, or being a regular contributor to a respected publication, such as Forbes

How Do You Develop a Sound Thought Leadership Strategy?

At its core, thought leadership is about expressing your point of view on a new approach, strategy, technology, application, etc. It is something new and novel, differentiated from others. For technology companies, thought leadership often comes in the form of articulating a core difference in your product or solution.

One example is from a client of ours in biotech. They have developed a new approach to attacking solid tumors that is a true CAR-T 2.0 therapy, utilizing a multi-chain construct. No one else is doing this. Their thought leadership strategy includes talking about the challenges seen in CAR-T 1.0 therapies and how their new approach is more effective.

Often, the goal of thought leadership is to “own” a topic so that you become the foremost voice on the subject. This takes a commitment to being proactive. Tactics you should consider include conducting research, creating an industry perspective paper, giving presentations, writing articles, and identifying internal or external metrics that support your point of view.

From Thought Leader to Industry Leader

Thought leadership often leads to industry leadership. While thought leadership often relies on vision, industry leadership follows with hard numbers and customer engagement. By using thought leadership as a strategic part of your communication program, companies can expand their visibility and spur early customer interest that helps build industry leadership and success.