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Profile: Shining from the sidelines - Andrew Brown, head of media relations, EDF Energy

Just as PRWeek begins to write up its interview with Andrew Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's brother who joined EDF Energy last month, a power-cut temporarily wipes out the building's electricity.

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Unfortunate timing, but explaining such mishaps (as Brown's office later does - it was a fault with an underground cable) is often bread-and-butter for PROs at energy-supply firms.

EDF Energy was incorporated in 2003 to bring Electricite de France's acquisitions London Electricity, SWEB and Seeboard under one umbrella and has still to make its mark on the media.

As the firm's new media chief, Brown himself was last week at EDF Energy's West Burton coal-fired station showing off the firm's £120m investment in desulpherisation technology to Energy Minister Mike O'Brien.

Given his brother's job, closeness with politicians is familiar territory.

In reference to Gordon, he says with a relaxed Scottish drawl that is rather smoother than that of the Chancellor: 'I've always felt that one politician in the family is enough.

'As a politician you are putting yourself in the spotlight. In many ways PR is just as 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week but the difference is that as a politician you are sticking your head above the parapet and nailing your colours to the mast. That is something only certain people want to do,' he explains.

Weber Shandwick head of corporate comms Michael Prescott describes his former colleague as 'very calming' and as a 'very thoughtful, very mature person with a gentle sense of humour'. Brown, himself, seems slightly more on edge when talking about himself and his motivations.

Like his middle brother Gordon and eldest brother and former Glasgow City Council head of PR John, Brown took an early interest in journalism at Edinburgh University, editing the student newspaper.

But although he later worked as a researcher for the now Chancellor after six years as a BBC TV Scotland reporter and later BBC Scotland Radio reporter and producer, he eschewed front-of-the-camera roles for that of producer and editor, joining Newsnight as assistant producer in 1987.

Brown's assertion that he does not relish the limelight is evidenced by the rest of his career in producing and editing, which, from Newsnight, moved to being economics and business producer for Channel 4 News; he was then C4 News's programme editor and chief sub-editor, working on scripts for the programme's presenter Jon Snow. His editorial career was rounded off with a seven-year stint as editor of C4 News's thrice-weekly lunchtime political discussion programme Powerhouse.

Brown says C4's decision to replace Powerhouse with a lunchtime bulletin on the Iraq war was the catalyst for him to think more seriously about a career in PR. Subsequent discussions with then WS joint-MDs of strategy and media Prescott and Peter Morgan (now BT head of group media relations) convinced him to make the jump.

'I think it was a huge comfort factor for him that he would be working with two ex-journalists who had trodden the same path,' Prescott says.

Brown argues that there is not a great difference between his role and journalism - and rejects what many see as the conflict between the two. 'There are very few journalists you will meet who will not agree with the idea that firms and organisations should be able to communicate in the best and clearest possible way,' he says.

'The idea that good PR is in some way a blockage to good journalism is totally wrong. Good PR enables journalists to do their job much better,'he adds.

While Brown, who reports to EDF Energy director of comms Gareth Wynn, admits 'the energy industry is not something I knew much about before' - and says he could not have made the move without his 15 months as media strategy director at WS - he is certainly happily ensconced in his new role.

As the firm seeks to make its mark on the press, Brown will have to reprise the front-of-the-camera role that kicked off his career. Shirking the limelight is not an option.

RESUME

1977 Reporter, BBC TV Scotland

1983 House of Commons researcher for Gordon Brown MP

1987 Assistant producer, Newsnight

1989 Economics and business producer, Channel 4 News

1994 Programme editor, Channel 4 News

1996 Editor, Powerhouse (ITN)

2003 Director of media strategy, Weber Shandwick

2004 Head of media relations, EDF Energy

This article was first published on PR Week UK

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