Pascal Dessureault, 27
Manager of Corporate and Public Affairs, TD Bank Group
“By the time I am 40 I want to… look back and realize that I’ve made an impact on the world around me.”
For Pascal Dessureault, PR is more than a way for businesses to influence how consumers feel. The 27-year-old manager of corporate and public affairs for TD Bank Group holds a deep-seated belief that PR can help resolve society’s many conflicts – a belief that ties together his passion for PR across politics, business and non-profit work.
His career is a study in how to use PR for good. At 17 he worked in communications for his local MP, went on to work for a federal party and studied political science at U of T. At 19, he was hired to direct communications for the World Outgames, a sporting event that drew more than 10,000 LGBT athletes to Montreal in 2006. At 22, he became the youngest-ever executive board member of The 519, Toronto’s oldest and largest LGBT community centre; two years later he was its chair.
His corporate career hasn’t been a sideshow, either: In 2010 he became the leader of Purolator’s corporate communications team, where he managed public and media relations, internal communications, social media and employee events. He became a public spokesperson for the company and introduced a new social media strategy to help transform Purolator into a 21st-century social brand. In March of this year, he moved to TD to take on a similar role as head of corporate and public affairs.
At The 519, he was deeply involved in rebranding and modernization efforts that transformed the 38-year-old organization from a local community centre focused on Toronto’s Gay Village to a city-wide institution serving the broader LGBT community. In addition to updating its marketing, events and programs, he led the initiative to renovate and re-launch the centre’s cafeteria as Fabarnak, a socially-conscious restaurant that serves only locally produced food and provides work experience to underemployed community members.
The new positioning had a tangible effect. In his four years on the executive board, annual revenue doubled even as municipal funding dropped from a 50% share of revenue to 30%. For the first time this year, the centre will hit its $1 million annual fundraising target.
Dessureault says success came from creating “tiers of involvement” to accommodate diverse stakeholders with differing attitudes toward donations. He made a point of encouraging small, one-time e-commerce or cash payments, which helped drive up donations from millennials. Although The 519 continues its annual $1000-a-plate charity gala, it now also hosts free events – like the Green Space festival on Pride weekend, which raked in $300,000 in drink sales this year – to broaden its membership base and brand relevance beyond high-stakes donors.
Lessons learned from his experiences in cause marketing and community branding have given him a leg up on his career as a marketer. PR for customer-facing businesses is all about driving engagement and creating brand advocates, he says. Modern marketers are looking for ways to empower their stakeholders and build communities around their brands – something he learned a lot about doing non-profit work.
“Pascal stands out in his capability to use both his raw smarts and his passion,” says Tom Schmitt, former CEO of Purolator. “In the time I was at Purolator, we established corporate citizenship as a corporate value. Pascal was instrumental in making corporate citizenship come alive.”
Dessureault says he’ll never stop devoting his time to the causes he cares about. “I feel personally very lucky in life, and helping those in need is very important to me,” he says. “I think we can achieve so much by citizenship engagement.”
From Afridi to Wong, check out all the profiles in our 30 Under Thirty.