Well, there are the basics - strategy, customer profiles, actionable goals (ideally you should have everything here as a minimum) but these can easily lead you down the same road to copying and rehashing content.
In fact, there's a popular strategy out there euphemistically called the "SkyScraper Technique" which is just a fancy way of saying that you should rewrite other people's posts. The real catch is that instead of copying anything, you're supposed to only copy the best-performing posts, and of course, make them better.
That's like telling a criminal they should make sure to steal more diamonds instead of less. If you have to tell them in the first place, the heist probably isn't going to go well.
It's not uncommon for a company to pay a consulting firm $5,000+ (for transparency, 4Track averages $4,300) for a content strategy and consumer research only to take that in-house and go as cheap as possible for content production. That usually means an article is subcontracted -- usually more than once. Each round of subcontracting means a cheaper end product, and...
In writing, you usually get exactly what you pay for.
This is getting down to the root of why so many articles are copied. If your average writer is trying to make a living on 5 or 10 cents a word, they're going to have to put out a lot of words every day just to get by.
That doesn't leave a lot of time for research or new ideas. At those prices, you'd be lucky if there's time for proofreading.
Content is either an industry in need of a fix, or a place where a little more effort can yield huge results.
Here's how to get out the $#!%.
There are pretty much just two things you need that most people skimp on - writers and experts. Good writers. Really good writers.
Not just your marketing team. They don't have the time to dedicate two or three days to a single article. 9
You need experts and you need writers. If you're lucky, you'll find an expert who happens to be a great writer.
If you're asking what kinds of experts, it only depends on the kind of content you're creating.
Writing about a new pot law in Massachusetts? Find a lawyer in the field.
Marketing a new medical gadget? Find a scientist.
Game-changing productivity software? Find a VP of operations at a successful company.
Why? Because the whole point of even creating content in the first place is to provide value to your users, not to just tick some boxes on the marketing checklist. Pay these people what they're worth and let them uncover new angles, ideas and perspectives.
Share new ideas, stop rehashing the old.
Coming up, Part 3: How to manage the writer / expert relationship.