FT Longitude is on a mission to ensure that its clients’ thought leadership is genuinely thoughtful. The agency wants to provide depth and a connection to core values, enabling active engagement with a growing B2B client base. In the 10 years it has been shaping client brand engagement and advocacy, FT Longitude has offered its 60 or so senior clients some seriously creative pathways to reach their high-level audiences. 

More recently, however, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have turned marketing—and indeed, organisational focus—upside-down. How have they affected FT Longitude’s approach to thought leadership?

FT Longitude makes clear that thought leadership is not for the fainthearted

There is one clear piece of advice in FT Longitude’s messages: don’t go into thought leadership unless you intend to align your purpose with your sustainability goals. The agency is clear that this will be challenging but also rewarding. It is also clear that transparency is essential in thought leadership. The advice is to talk about your journey to everyone, including clients, investors, staff and other stakeholders. This can seem daunting to traditional industries that have previously kept marketing firmly behind closed doors—but it will be worth the effort. 

It is important to have a sustainable vision and the right type of leadership 

Companies need to walk the talk and demonstrate where they make a real impact. You cannot get away with ‘greenwashing’ these days. FT Longitude has a firm message for mission seekers: take a real eyes-wide-open look at your core purpose and its current alignment with the things that matter to your clients. You can then ask the big questions and call up the big ideas. FT Longitude also suggests that this process must be led by the CEO. It’s no good leaving this to the CMO or even a new Chief Sustainability Officer. This leadership must come right from the top. 

Chart your journey, including the practical results—and make this information public

You have to be able to measure progress against your goals, and that includes intermediate steps. Measure using inclusive data and share it. Map your progress as you go, and talk about it as work in progress. Around 26% of companies have sustainability as a KPI, and clients like to know how others are doing. This also helps to ensure that others engage in your journey. You can raise awareness about your aims and progress by starting conversations across platforms, and then build awareness and advocacy by including more voices in the conversations. 

Choose your conversations and focus on what matters

Which conversations should you choose to prioritise and expand? Content marketing is best when it focuses on current issues that matter. In sustainability terms, this means when it causes us to take a fresh look at known brands who are actively engaged in sustainability. It follows that these conversations should not focus on the brand or service itself, but instead talk about what the brand is doing and talking about. It’s also worth saying that these conversations work best when employees are engaged and involved as advocates for the brand. 

Be honest about your sustainability challenges, and especially where you feel the pinch 

Nowadays it’s all about authenticity and honesty. Sharing how your company is progressing with knotty issues of sustainability makes for a compelling conversation. More than ever, clients value real dialogue rather than glossy marketing campaigns. This can be a bit of a mind-shift for those whose industry tries to avoid exposing this kind of detail. However, FT Longitude’s roadmap encourages companies to develop both a strategic and authentic purpose, making this honesty surprisingly easy. 

More visibility means that alignment is more important 

More prestigious brands are more visible—and that includes their efforts on sustainability. This makes purpose alignment absolutely central. FT Longitude is the marketing wing of the Financial Times group, and it dares its clients and others to climb and reposition their brand amongst senior audiences with similar aims and ambitions. 

Assess and track your reputation over time 

Campaigns come and go, but what lasts? FT Longitude has a clear focus on helping its clients to set clear KPIs for their core purpose. It also focuses on helping them to gain audience insights through performance tracking. This, in turn, will enable consistent content alignment and the timely placing of topics to keep those important conversations developing.