About Rusty

Rusty Shelton first spoke at Harvard on the changing world of marketing and PR at the age of 23.

He is a bestselling author, dynamic keynote speaker and successful entrepreneur who has focused his career on helping leaders build thought leadership focused on impact, not ego, writing three acclaimed books and speaking around the world to a variety of audiences, from YPO to SXSW Interactive to Forbes. 

He is Chairman of Zilker Media, an award-winning agency based in Austin, TX that builds people-driven brands and Senior Marketing Strategist at Forbes Books.

An Active
Keynote Speaker,

Rusty’s keynotes blend humor and targeted examples to challenge assumptions about personal branding, showing audiences how to build authentic thought leadership focused on impact, not ego. He’s known for a mix of story-telling, candor and practical, put-it-into-action-next-week guidance – showing leaders how to make an impact and build trust in an increasingly skeptical world – and have a lot of fun along the way.  

He has shared the stage with Steve Forbes and Alan Mulally, spoken for YPO, EO, SXSW Interactive, the University of Texas, numerous Fortune 1000 companies and served on the faculty at more than 20 Harvard Medical School CME courses.

He is the co-author (alongside Adam Witty) of The Authority Advantage: Building Thought Leadership Focused on Impact, Not Ego (ForbesBooks, 2023), which features a foreword from David Meerman Scott, Authority Marketing: How to Leverage 7 Pillars of Thought Leadership to Make Competition Irrelevant (ForbesBooks, 2018), which features a foreword from Steve Forbes, and co-author (alongside Barbara Cave Henricks) of Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset (Berrett-Koehler, 2016).

An avid Texas Longhorns fan, he sits on the University of Texas Texas Exes PR Committee and is a proud member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) in Austin, where he serves on the board.

He lives just west of Austin in Spicewood with his wife, Paige and three children (Luke, Brady & Sadie) and their very rowdy black lab, Charlie. Rusty loves to play golf, fish, coach his sons’ sports teams and is the QB for Lake Travis’ top “old man” flag football team.

See what audiences are saying about Rusty

Bold and transformational.”

Steve Forbes
Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Media

Rusty is an engaging and terrific speaker! I invite him back year after year, because course attendees rave about his talks.

Dr.Julie Silver
Physician, Researcher & Director of Multiple Harvard Medical School CME Courses

A must read for CEOs that believe in servant leadership.

Alan Mulally
Retired CEO of Ford Motor Company and Boeing Commercial Airlines

Having an important message means nothing, if nobody notices or cares. If you want to grow your audience in today’s distracted and overcrowded world, read this book. Rusty and Barbara show you how to fascinate your audience.”

Sally Hogshead
New York Times bestselling author & creator of the Fascinate System

The Authority Advantage provides a modern-day blueprint CEOs must follow to build mind-share and market-share for their business.

Verne Harnish
Founder of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) and Author of Scaling Up

Entrepreneurship is one of the greatest
forces for good on the planet.

One of Rusty’s greatest passions is using the power of entrepreneurship to make a positive impact on the world – here’s a look at the companies he’s involved with.

Zilker Media

Zilker Media is an award-winning boutique agency providing end-to-end brand building for some of the world’s top executives, thought leaders and companies. With an emphasis on people-driven marketing, Zilker Media is a category-leader in PR, digital marketing & lead generation and is one of Austin’s Best Places to Work according to the Austin Business Journal. Learn more at www.ZilkerMedia.com.


Rusty’s first agency, Shelton Interactive, was acquired by Advantage|ForbesBooks in early 2016, at which time Rusty was named Senior Marketing Strategist of Advantage Media Group and Publisher of ForbesBooks. He continues to work closely with the Charleston, SC-based company to help leaders and entrepreneurs grow their business and create an Authority Advantage. Learn more at www.advantagefamily.com or www.books.forbes.com

Texas Hill Country Provisions

I’m happy to be an investor and supporter of Texas Hill Country Provisions, which was founded in South Austin in 2021.

Catch Engine

Catch Engine is a software platform founded by Nick Alter, Rusty Shelton and David Stromberg that allows customers to build quizzes and assessments in a low-cost, high-quality format. Over the past few years Catch Engine quizzes have been taken more than 700,000 times and its client list includes leading publishers, best-selling authors and top companies. Learn more at www.catchengine.com.

Alter Endeavors

Alter Endeavors is the official website partner of Zilker Media and builds the best online platforms (including this website!) for all Zilker Media clients. Learn more at www.AlterEndeavors.com.

Shelton Interactive

Founded after many sleepless nights in 2010, Shelton Interactive was Rusty’s first ever business. The company became one of the fastest growing small businesses in Austin and was widely recognized as one of the leading digital shops in the publishing industry. Known for its culture, team-based atmosphere and launch of more than 35 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, the agency was a blast to build alongside some of the most talented people in Austin. Rusty’s first successful exit, the company was acquired in 2016 by Advantage|ForbesBooks, whom Rusty still works closely with today. For more on the lessons learned building Shelton Interactive, click here to read the article Rusty wrote for Inc. Magazine about it.


Bibliomotion was a next-generation publishing company founded by Jill Friedlander, Erika Heilman, Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton in 2011 that became a fast-growing imprint in the business book space. Acquired in 2016 by Taylor & Francis, Bibliomotion books continue to make an impact. Click here to read the Publishers Weekly article on the acquisition.

authority assessment

Take The Quiz

Is your personal thought leadership driving trust for your brand? Take my Trust Leadership Assessment to find out.

Take the Quiz