Luc Beauregard was a 29-year-old Quebec newspaper reporter in October, 1970, about to be hired by the province’s labour minister, Pierre Laporte, as his communications director. Then Mr. Laporte was kidnapped and killed by Front de libération du Québec terrorists before Mr. Beauregard could take the job.
He went on instead to become a founding partner of what would become National Public Relations, today one of the top 25 public relation firms in the world. The company, with 12 offices in North America and Europe, boasts annual revenue of $60-million and has been instrumental not only in influencing corporate strategy but in helping crown corporations shape and direct public opinion.
Among its clients are McDonald’s, National Bank, Molson and numerous health-care companies, including Novo Nordisk and Roche. At the cutting edge of crisis management, the firm helped save the reputation of BioChem Pharma, which had been criticized while it was attempting to develop an AIDS vaccine that later proved to be effective. The company was also engaged by former prime minister Brian Mulroney during the Airbus scandal.
Mr. Beauregard, who died of cancer on July 26, one week shy of his 72nd birthday, was a demanding executive with a competitive drive who helped revolutionize the industry. Public affairs consultant Michael Coates, with Hill & Knowlton Strategies, once described him as “the Jean Béliveau of PR – a gentleman and a stand-up player.”
His daughter Valérie Beauregard, executive vice-president of Res Publica Consulting Group, National’s parent company, said her father was a workaholic. “His life was his family and the family he built at work. He worked the hardest of us all,” she said.
“When he wasn’t at work, he was involved with the community, working not only for his clients, but for his community. … He had a deep, abiding love for Canada. He was a passionate defender of the federalist option, he worked for the Quebec Liberal Party during the 1980 referendum and was a member of the board of governors of the Federal Idea, a think tank on federalism.”
Luc Beauregard, the sixth in a family of seven children in a fur salesman’s family, was born in Montreal on Aug. 4, 1941. He grew up in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood and was educated at Collège Stanislas. He had every intention of becoming a lawyer but instead went to work at the French-language daily La Presse, where he was mentored by Gérard Pelletier and Roger D. Landry, who would both be major influences on his career. Within five years he was one of the newspaper’s highest-paid journalists.
Mr. Beauregard was assigned to Ottawa as a parliamentary correspondent in 1967, just as Pierre Trudeau emerged as a political force in Canada. Mr. Trudeau became prime minister in 1968 and Mr. Pelletier was sworn in as his secretary of state. Mr. Beauregard was invited to become research assistant for the new government’s task force on communication strategy.
Then, “as a lark,” Mr. Beauregard accepted a job as communications director for Quebec’s minister of education, Jean-Guy Cardinal, an ambitious cabinet minister in the Union Nationale government. When Mr. Cardinal’s political career fizzled, Mr. Beauregard became involved with Pierre Laporte’s bid to win the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party. Mr. Laporte lost to Robert Bourassa, who won the 1970 election and included Mr. Laporte in his cabinet.
It seemed Mr. Beauregard was assured of a job. But the FLQ crisis six months later changed everything. Mr. Beauregard went into partnership with Mr. Landry and Roger Nantel, and started a communications consulting firm.
They brought a multidisciplinary approach to public relations, which was unique at the time, combining PR with social science and then-emerging audiovisual expertise.
Mr. Beauregard left to become publisher of tabloid newspaper Montréal-Matin. In 1976, he and his secretary started another communications consulting firm. “To me, journalists were outside the rink,” he once reflected. “I wanted to be on the ice.”
His approach was was not just to crank out press releases to sell toothpaste, or write speeches for politicians, but to evaluate the corporate environment and offer clients sound judgment and business advice at the boardroom level. Mr. Beauregard recruited a series of partners, and within a decade dominated the Quebec market under the name Beauregard, Hutchinson, McCoy, Capistran, Lamarre, Tremblay et associés.
In 1986, the company recruited Ed Gould, a Burson-Marsteller consultant, to open a Toronto office and became National Public Relations. In 1995, National acquired the Canadian operations of Burson-Marsteller, a global communications firm, vaulting it into position as Canada’s largest tactical public relations firm.
“He never stopped enjoying his life. I always admired his vigour,” said John Crean, managing partner at National. “He was always rethinking strategy in every situation. No matter how simple or complex, he could see its multiple connections. He was always ahead with a third option.”
National was engaged to spin the Airbus scandal, was hired by Hydro-Québec to promote the Churchill Falls power project, and handled the 2005 Molson Coors merger.
“He was the best PR practitioner in the world. I can’t think of anyone better,” said Luc Lavoie, who defended Brian Mulroney throughout the Airbus controversy. “Too often there is shady stuff in the PR business. Luc had a noble vision, and an unbelievable level of integrity. He wouldn’t tolerate shenanigans. He was very rational, someone with great wisdom who had a clear, cold, calculating vision.”
A man of many interests, Mr. Beauregard was chairman of the municipal corporation responsible for the Man and His World exhibition and La Ronde amusement park. He was also on the advisory board of the Montreal Neurological Institute and was founding chairman of Public Relations Without Borders.
Last year, the Luc Beauregard Centre of Excellence in Communications Research was established at Concordia University in recognition of his accomplishments.
“He has helped to professionalize the profession through his numerous contributions to the Canadian Public Relations Society,” said Terence Flynn, assistant professor of communications management at McMaster University. “His mark on our profession will last for generations.”
Mr. Beauregard was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1996, promoted to Officer within the order in July, and earlier this year was made a knight in the National Order of Quebec.
In a recent speech, Mr. Beauregard described the advent of social media as “a game changer” and the biggest challenge to corporate communications. “Social media is often antisocial. It creates so many voices, and most of them rude. Who would want to be the leader of anything these days when you are subjected to a sort of demolition derby where people in charge are no longer respected and are constantly being judged by raw stupidity. It is awful. Uncivil.”
A voracious reader of biographies, Mr. Beauregard was rarely without a Jack Russell terrier. He had been looking forward to moving into a retreat in the Eastern Townships that he had just built.
His first marriage ended in divorce. He leaves his wife of 43 years, Michelle Lafleur, two daughters from his first marriage, and his wife’s two sons from a previous marriage.
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