If you work in a large organization, chances are you’ve run into some content challenges that feel pretty darn overwhelming.

After all, auditing 10,000 pages, running multiple blogs and social media accounts, and wrangling dozens of writers, editors, contributors, and stakeholders is no walk in the park. Content is hard in small organizations too, but as your business grows, content needs grow too (and gets messier and more complicated in the process).

So, how the heck are you supposed to keep it all in check?

The good news is that, like anything in life, good, up-front planning yields really great results.

Today, I’d like to talk about three foundational things you can do to plan for great content—both on your website and in your content marketing campaigns. And while these apply to small organizations too, I think they’re particularly relevant for large companies with lots of moving parts.

Instead of just giving you advice, though, I’m going to tell you about one big and wonderful success story: Gov.uk.

Like so many large organizations—government or not—just a year or two ago Gov.uk was a mess. Dozens of little sites provided sometimes conflicting information. Over 100,000 pages of content lived on the site—and not all of them up-to-date or relevant.

But that’s when the magic happened.

Someone recognized the problem and the team took on a major online overhaul—bringing all the disparate government websites under one umbrella and ruthlessly fixing up and tossing out content.

Here are three things I think we can learn from their project:

1. Simplify—and focus on quality.

When the team at Gov.uk got rid of over 92,000 pages on their website, they saved over 50 million pounds (that’s about 75 million dollars) and saw a huge spike in user engagement. People were really using the website—finding what they needed when they needed it—and the organization was saving millions, all because of a relentless commitment to simplicity.

If this isn’t a great argument for keeping things simple and focusing on quality, I don’t know what is.

Tailor content to topics your users actually need, and want, to understand.

2. Identify user needs (and balance them with your business goals).

I’m sure I sound like a broken record by now, but the absolute most important thing you can do for content on any project or in any company is to identify ahead of time what the business is trying to accomplish and what your users want or need from you. Those user needs are your starting point and should be balanced with your business goals.

This is another thing Gov.uk did during its big content overhaul—and it’s one of the things to which they attribute their increased engagement.

3. Do the up-front research (even if you’re in a rush).

While we can applaud Gov.uk’s fantastic, user-centric overhaul, I think we should also be asking the question: what if they had done all this sooner?

I think you know the answer.

They would have saved even more money, time, and resources. They would have had user engagement years ago.

And I think that’s a key lesson for any business: the earlier you do the leg-work—the content audits, interviews, and overhauls—the better.

It takes time and energy to interview your stakeholders, audit a 100,000+ page website, write a detailed set of guidelines for your contributors, etc. But the sooner you do it, the sooner you get that engagement, start saving that money, and start having time to focus on growing your business through content…not just maintaining what you’ve got or, heaven forbid, just piling more on top of it all.

Interested in knowing more about Gov.uk’s overhaul?

Check out Sarah Richards’ presentation from Confab London. It’s epic.

What do you think about content planning for large corporations?

If you have a success story, question, or thought about large corporations and content planning, we’d love to hear from you. Drop your thoughts in the comments below.