New ven­ture for ex-sol­dier who cre­ated Afghan ‘Mil­lion­aire’ New PR agency for for­mer Gre­nadier Guards­man who held Tal­iban talks

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Mike Lock­ley Staff Re­porter

THE man be­hind the Afghanistan hit ver­sion of Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire? has re­turned to Birm­ing­ham and is fronting his own PR agency.

It is an­other twist in the fas­ci­nat­ing ca­reer of Sut­ton Cold­field’s Alan Barry, a man who served as a Gre­nadier Guards­man in Ire­land be­fore trav­el­ling the world as a top mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor.

The 53-year-old once held meet­ings with the Tal­iban in Kan­da­har, Afghanistan, while at­tempt­ing to in­tro­duce mo­bile phone net­works to the trou­bled coun­try.

He has writ­ten a book about his ex­pe­ri­ences, Sales­man with an AK-47, and over the last two years has made na­tional news­pa­per head­lines as founder and lead­ing light of Jus­tice for North­ern Ire­land Vet­er­ans.

The 25,000-strong group was set up in protest over the prosecution of for­mer sol­diers for al­leged wrong-do­ing dur­ing The Trou­bles.

But Mr Barry be­lieves he has paid a heavy price for the work – and not just fi­nan­cially.

“The big­gest prob­lem is I’ve vir­tu­ally made my­self un­em­ploy­able be­cause of the me­dia pub­lic­ity and cov­er­age Jus­tice for North­ern Ire­land Vet­er­ans has re­ceived,” said the busi­ness­man.

“Th­ese days, the first thing em­ploy­ers do is google you. They see some­one who is com­fort­able with peo­ple in pol­i­tics.”

They also see some­one a lit­tle too high pro­file – even controversial – for their lik­ing.

“I feel very pas­sion­ate about Jus­tice for North­ern Ire­land Vet­er­ans,” Mr Barry said. “I have not been paid for do­ing it and it has vir­tu­ally be­come a full-time job.”

Now Mr Barry’s new com­pany “Alan Barry PR and Me­dia Con­sul­tancy” has hit the ground run­ning.

He has al­ready been ap­proached by SAS and Ira­nian Em­bassy siege hero Rusty Firmin. The pair stage a talk and book sign­ing at Sut­ton Cold­field Town Hall on Septem­ber 21. But he stressed his new ven­ture is not mil­i­tary-based.

His ex­per­tise is in rais­ing the pro­file of com­pa­nies, push­ing them into the pub­lic do­main.

“With­out blow­ing my own trum­pet, all the PR and me­dia for Jus­tice for North­ern Ire­land Vet­er­ans has been down to me. I built it from zero. That’s what I do,” he said.

“I did all the pub­lic­ity for my book and got more cov­er­age than a lot of au­thors backed by ma­jor pub­lish­ers.”

His are mar­ket­ing skills gained in the tough­est of en­vi­ron­ments, Afghanistan’s trou­bled wilder­ness.

It was there, he gained an un­usual claim to fame. Mr Barry gave quiz show Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire? to the na­tion. For the record, one mil­lion AFN – the coun­try’s cur­rency – is worth 16,000 US dol­lars.

“I was work­ing for Afghanistan Wire­less,” ex­plained Mr Barry, “a com­pany that also owned the main TV sta­tion and we were look­ing at cus­tomer re­ten­tion.

“I used to watch Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire? and found out who owned the rights to the pro­gramme. We bought the rights and the set.

“It proved hugely suc­cess­ful.”

> Alan Barry cre­ated the Afghanistan ver­sion of

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