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Entrepreneurs Panel

David Pollock
Richard O'Sullivan
Debbie Pierce
Michael Oliver
Jennie Johnson
Julie Meyer
Brian Hay
Jeremy Roberts
Steve Purdham
Laura Tenison
Tony Caldeira
Charlie Mullins

Gordon Burns

Former BBC North West Tonight presenter Gordon Burns has traded his microphone for a ledger book and set up his own business.

Burns, who became a household name as the host of game show the Krypton Factor, has launched a new company focusing on business communications and reputation management.

The 69-year-old has teamed up with ex- Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks and former BBC North West chief Martin Brooks to create the Gordon Burns Partnership.

Burns, who has interviewed every Prime Minister since Edward Heath, tells us that his experience, coupled with that of his business partners, means that they are in a good position to offer sound advice.

“It just seemed to me that with the three of us we have a great level of experience, expertise and a good track record in the media in its different levels, such as the newspaper world, the radio world and the TV world.”

Burns, who landed his first journalism job at the age of 18, tells us that the media is often accused of being “out to get people, or organisations”, but that, he adds, is simply not the case.

You have to present positive stories to the media, he says.

And, he continues, if you want a story to appear on TV it will have to be presented in a completely different way from a story intended for a newspaper or for radio.

He says the Gordon Burns Partnership will not just benefit businesses that are trying to get their messages across, but also the media because they are “crying out for stories”.

Given the current economic climate, it is more important than ever before that companies realise the value of promoting themselves in the media, he tells EN.

And Burns also says that it’s not just private-led businesses that need effective communication strategies, but also public sector organisations such as the NHS.

Given the multimedia world we now inhabit, Burns says a good press release has to be tailored to the form of media for which it is intended: “Some press releases don’t inspire or make the distinction between newspaper, radio and TV – they just get churned out.

“It is all about producing a story in the right way and thinking about the audience it is going out to.”

In terms of setting up the business, Burns says it “hasn’t been that difficult” and his experience of being involved in other businesses in the past has helped.

“I had my own company, which hired me to the BBC, and I ran my own conference company with a colleague,” he explains.

“It was loosely based on the Krypton Factor and we would go to conferences and split the delegates up into teams and set Krypton Factor-style tasks and puzzles that were based on the content of some of the speeches at the events.”

Burns says he wouldn’t call himself a “great businessman” and that is why he teamed up with Horrocks and Brook, both of whom are used to dealing with multi-million pound budgets.

He is also a shareholder in another company which will broadcast pub quizzes simultaneously to hundreds of pubs via fast broadband.

“It is a totally new concept and we are working with a firm that owns hundreds of pubs.”

He tells us that some trials have already taken place and that the company’s official launch will be in February.

When we ask about projected turnover at the Gordon Burns Partnership, he says he hasn’t got the “foggiest idea” because the business is “so new”.

The company will not have a set price list, he says, because each job will have different requirements from the next.

“We think we have a lot to offer. But to actually hit on a figure would be a wild stab in the dark and wouldn’t do anyone any good. I could have rolled out a figure but it would have been just off the top of my head,” he adds.

Burns admits there are plenty of PR firms that, like the Gordon Burns Partnership, offer reputation management but says what makes his company stand out is the “strength of expertise” on offer.

“We can help others to project themselves properly because we know what is required as we have been there.”

Passion, according to Burns, is essential for would-be entrepreneurs, as is dynamism. “You have to have the motivation and the get up and go to go out there and sell your idea.”

With the Gordon Burns Partnership and the pub quiz broadcaster, it looks as though Burns – who millions of TV viewers believe is just enjoying a quiet retirement – will remain very busy indeed.

“I’ve never been lazy. I don’t want to sit up and put my feet up as I think that is the beginning of the end,” he concludes.

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