Blog Post

June 1, 2023

Gaining Influence on your teams: building collaboration from the ground up


Courtney Doane

Chasing a seat at the table and gaining a voice

Content design isn’t a new role, yet some team members are still unclear about what a content designer does. While giving the pitch of “why content design is great,” can be helpful, Ariel van Spronsen, Content Strategy Seattle’s May speaker, offered guidance for a more structured way to gain your voice and establish yourself as a leader. 

Some guidelines for integrating into a new team or potentially into the middle of a project:

  • First, acknowledge previous work. It is important to let the team know that what they’ve done so far is important and make sure you understand what has been done prior to your arrival. 
  • Second, you want to be a learner and be ready to research what you don’t know about the project. After you have learned about the team and the project your next task is to synthesize what you’ve learned and what insights you have gained since coming to the project. 
  • Finally, the last step is to build connections and make sure you understand what everyone is going through on the team. 

After these foundational pieces have been laid, it is time to potentially raise some issues you are seeing and address those with the team.

Red flags and decision making

Raising red flags needs to be done carefully and with compassion. Understanding that team members have worked hard on this content and making sure to be compassionate as you approach these red flags is key to winning the team’s trust. This is a great time to utilize data researchers on your team or within your organization to back up your reasoning. It’s also important to bring solutions to the table and make sure you are able to flex and hear feedback to create the desired outcome for the project.


Ariel suggests utilizing the 6 C’s of collaboration: 

  • Context
  • Clarity
  • Communication
  • Critique
  • Cooperation
  • Compassion

The most important of these C’s is communication because the others cannot happen without communication. Setting goals is important and backing up those goals with data or knowledge is key. In Ariel’s example, she discusses a new product that HubSpot was adding to their CMS offerings. It was a great time for Ariel to figure out how to collaborate with the product designer. 

  • They established guidelines for how they would communicate and how they could collaborate in a productive way. 
  • They looked at the timeline, collaborated on ideas and shared documents and they utilized a combined Figma document to add content in real time together. As questions came up, they had to understand that the success came from identifying these questions and taking the time to address them.
  • They utilized customer feedback and added more messaging for the users. 

After these changes were made and they were able to do more research after the product had launched, they received great feedback and great scores from users.

Key takeaways

Key takeaways from this talk were to be brave, believe in yourself, and do so with compassion. Everyone has a job to do and at the end of the day, we are all trying to do our best. Supporting team members and creating a space where everyone can be creative and successful is the goal. 

About the speaker

Ariel van Spronsen (@arielvansprons) is a senior content designer at HubSpot. She’s been obsessed with making information clear, useful, and enjoyable since she was a kid, but officially started her UX career in 2007. Since then she’s helped companies like Expedia Group, Nike, and Motorola craft better content experiences. Ariel lives and works in Seattle with her beloved three-footed tabby cat by her side.

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