I’ve seen too many marketers who make the mistake of acting like venture capitalists with their content strategy. In other words, they bank on their ability to hit a few winners to carry the day, without really worrying too much about everything else. Although this “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach may work great for VCs, it’s deadly for marketers. Why? Because there’s no such thing as neutral content.

It’s Positive, It’s Negative, But It Isn’t Neutral

That last statement was a pretty important one, so take a minute to let it set in. There’s no such thing as neutral content. Every piece of content that you publish that isn’t great is effectively working against you by degrading your brand and limiting your long-term prospects of connecting with your audiences. That means content where you don’t have a good story to tell, that’s not relevant to your target audience, or where your tone of voice is off is actually working against you. In many cases, you’d effectively be better off not publishing anything at all than putting a piece of content out there that’s not up to snuff.

That may sound extreme, and it is, but in today’s content-driven world it’s true. Think of your own experience and willingness to engage with brands and publishers. While great content helps you stand out and create better experiences for your customers, content that doesn’t measure up leads audiences to tune out, opt out, and ultimately drop you out of consideration.

For businesses that have long believed they could rely on quantity, rather than quality, to be effective at content marketing, this will no doubt be a rude awakening.

To be clear, however, I’m not suggesting that quantity isn’t an important factor in successful content marketing. You can’t create a single piece of flawless content once a year and except to get great results. You need to produce content on a consistent and regular basis. That said, your challenge is figuring out how to make sure that it’s always of the highest quality. There are a lot of great tools and platforms out there that can help you do that, but the trick is simply remembering to never sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity.

As an interesting side note, it’s worth pointing out that earlier this year we launched a comprehensive research project focused on assessing global content quality. A key finding of this report was that only 33 percent of the companies analyzed met the minimum standards for content quality — an incredibly low number considering our research focused on some of the top brands in the world. Clearly there’s work to be done on the quality front.

So as you think about your own content, remember that neutral content doesn’t exist. Your target audience can and will find every piece of content you publish, and the impression that content makes on them will either strengthen or weaken their perception of your brand.

The stakes are high, but the potential benefits of getting it right are even higher.