Dane Swan: Creating content for the changing face of Canada

It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.

Hello, Turtle Island. Meet Dane Swan, co-founder of content studio Quiet Cold Media, and editor of WeAreStillCool.com.

Full disclosure: I’ve admired Dane ever since he featured at the Tartan Turban Secret Readings series I co-curate with Mayank Bhatt. That respect deepened when Dane and I both read our work at an event organized by that indefatigable pluralism warrior, poet Charles C Smith.

As a literary author and editor, Dane has always been fascinated by brands that value storytelling. And when he and his business partner Liz Gallo noticed a number of media spaces that organizations weren’t properly exploiting, they founded Quiet Cold Media in early 2020. Naturally, the pandemic made face-to-face networking nearly impossible, which made things tough because we so value it in our industry.

Dane believes podcasts can help organizations tell their stories and cement their place as experts. It’s why he loved post-producing the United Nations World Food Programme’s Better Food. Better World. podcast with Organized Sound Productions.

It’s the kind of work Dane and Liz want to keep doing. Both have experienced discrimination. Both have taken turns being the lead representative depending on whether they believed a white person or a man might be taken more seriously, says Dane—describing a scenario I know too well and personally confront far more frequently than I’d like.

For an industry where networking is everything, Dane believes every agency should open channels for businesses led by members of disenfranchised groups to meet and collaborate on projects.

He wants the industry to be open to more voices, more opinions, and more perspectives. “Communities can tell when a campaign is excluding them. Without diverse teams producing campaigns, products are being promoted to a shrinking segment of the population,” he explains.

One of projects Dane is proudest of is compiling, editing and leading the team behind the anthology Changing the Face of Canadian Literature, which featured on CBC Books Best of 2020 non-fiction list. It’s more than an anthology, Dane points out: “My volunteer proofreader was BIPOC, my graphic designer and layout person was BIPOC, publicity was handled by women. This was all intentional.”

When Dale’s Bending the Continuum was published in 2011, he may have been the first Black male author for the publisher Guernica in over a decade. Nine years and four books later, he was leading a diverse team, compiling a Guernica anthology of diverse writers. He hopes many other Black writers and writers from other disenfranchised groups will follow that trajectory.

Dane reminds us that organizations aren’t just advertising to consumers, but to potential employees and business partners. “If you want your organization to lead in innovation, creativity, etc., you’re doing yourself a disservice by not being inclusive at every level.”

Gavin Barrett