‘Intimacy and connection’: Emily Cook on what makes dentsu Queensland’s culture stand out

dentsu Queensland - Emily Cook

Plus: Cook reveals the A-list Aussie celebrity she beat in Year 12 Drama.

Emily Cook, general manager of dentsu Queensland, spoke to Mediaweek about the measures she and her team have taken to ensure their agency offers the best culture it can for its people.

Cook was rewarded for her efforts at Mediaweek’s Next of The Best awards as the winner of the Culture category.

Mediaweek caught up with Cook after the win to get her thoughts on how agency leaders can improve their culture offering, the A-list celebrity she bested in Year 12 drama and what the industry can expect from her next.

The awards have been judged by an all-star line-up, what does it mean to you to be recognised by this group?

It’s incredibly powerful.

I’ve worked across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane markets and have connected with a lot of people I fiercely admire across the industry. To see this line-up, made up of people I admire and knowing they took time to judge Next of the Best Talent is truly humbling and a credit to our industry that this powerhouse group are continuing to support the next generation of talent.

What makes dentsu Queensland’s culture stand out?

Where do I start… To be honest it has been a journey, but I think for us, we have spent a lot of time deeply connecting as a team. Doing this by driving intimacy and vulnerability is something that deeply resonated with me when I was selected to be part of the 2022 Marketing Academy cohort. Since then, I’ve been empowered to work in partnership with Chris Ernst, managing director of dentsu Queensland, to really run and own unlocking this with our entire team of over 70 in Brisbane.

This intimacy and connection has built psychological safety and connection with each other first and foremost. We have galvanised our crew behind a clear vision and made sure it was accountable for all to truly understand and play a part in. Accountability is delivered in clear expectations via goal-planning packs uniquely designed for our dentsu Queensland team and ensuring that everyone was set up for success to deliver on this.

We have crafted a one-of-a-kind development program called Origami, that leans into our Japanese heritage and takes the idea of taking a flat, one-dimensional piece of paper and sculpting it. Each fold has supported our growth journey for each of our people underpinned by vulnerability and transparency.

The bi-product of a deeply engaged culture grounded with a clear agency vision focused on the growth of everyone within our organisation has truly seen an incredible impact on the work as well as the deeply connected partnerships we have with our clients and media partners. Not only this, but it has had a significant impact in our crew’s work in giving back to society.

What advice do you have for agency leaders looking to improve culture?

Build intimacy and connection first and foremost. Words will never be able to articulate how incredibly moving this can be, investing time in doing this properly and seeing the impact it has on everyone within your team. You now feel the energy and connection when you walk into the building at 549 Queen Street. I would say this is one of your key investments as a leader, spending time connecting with your team, and truly understanding what has shaped your crew to be the people they are.

Leaders need to show up with vulnerability and honesty, humanising these conversations to maximise the impact and create the space to do this. I’ve personally shared openly about my sobriety, navigating IVF, and general life with the support of a psychologist to humanise and empower honest conversations.

With the work we have done at dentsu Queensland, I now work with our clients and media partners to support them in connecting and engaging their teams. It has been powerful to see across the industry that humanising connection and building team charters aligned to agreed-upon values and rituals has helped each of these partners connect intrinsically and supported them to run at commercial goals collectively.

In addition to driving an impactful culture at dentsu Queensland, what fun fact would you like the industry to know about you?

We have spent time connecting our dentsu Queensland crew behind the power of the intersection of creativity and intelligence, recently holding an event at the Brisbane Powerhouse for our senior client partners and team as a truly immersive experience. We asked each of our partners to submit an image that talked to their ‘most creative self’ that supported a guided creative self-exploration I took everyone on over dinner… yes, it was a powerful night!

My most creative self-image was me in my year 8 high-school drama class, which saw me fall in love with performing and theatre, writing, directing, and starring in many productions over the years with my girl gang. In the girl gang was Margot Robbie, and my fun fact is that I did beat her to come #1 in drama in year 12.

Being Next of The Best – what can the industry expect next from you?

Not slowing down! Continuing to support the industry with open and vulnerable conversations and doing this not just at dentsu Queensland, but supporting media and client partners to build and connect their teams to ensure that we are retaining the potent talent we have.  

Cheekily, I’ll always prioritise this for Queensland first and foremost as I do think there is a wonderful cohort of talent in this market, and this is the state where there is so much momentum just read Brisbane Economic Development Agency (BEDA’s) state of the City of report on why Brisbane is the most exciting city to be part of.

Top image: Emily Cook

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