For this travelling man there’s no better place to stop than British
As the man who last week landed the top communications job at British
Airways, Kevin Murray has led an appropriately peripatetic life.
Now a British citizen, Murray was born in Rhodesia in 1954 and moved
with his family to Zambia shortly afterwards. While still a teenager he
moved again, this time to South Africa, where he eventually became a
journalist with Johannesburg’s English language daily, the Star. In 1977
he transferred for a year to the Star’s London office, where he met and
married a British woman.
Having returned to South Africa, Murray then took a job editing
publications for Barlow Rand, the country’s biggest mining and
manufacturing group. It was a job which helped shape his outlook on in-
house public relations.
‘My experience at Barlow Rand showed me that by being in-house you get
the chance to influence an organisation from the inside and you really
are at the heart of change.’
After a spell with publishing house Churchill Murray, Murray moved
permanently to Britain in 1985 where he spent three years with
Oxfordshire agency Shearwater Communications Services. In 1988 he joined
chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer as its public relations manager.
Four years later he helped to steer the Atomic Energy Authority through
privatisation, becoming director of corporate affairs for its science
and technology service wing AEA Technology in 1994.
At Atomic Energy Authority he was responsible for managing a huge
department of 70 staff with activities right across the PR, public
affairs, marketing and corporate publishing spectrum. It was a position
which enabled Murray to implement his own vision of corporate
‘I believe implicitly in integrated communications,’ he explains. ‘I’m
not talking about the concept of integrating your marketing with you PR.
I’m talking about totally integrated communications across every one of
your audiences, whatever medium you have at your disposal.’
Such an intellectual approach to public relations has given Murray
something of a reputation as the thinking man’s PR. ‘I think he is one
of the best half dozen in-house people around,’ says veteran consultant
Reggie Watts. ‘He is very much like a management consultant in that he
thinks in terms of corporate policy and strategy and not just the
carrying of messages.’ Roger Hayes, director general of the British
Nuclear Industry Forum, agrees: ‘Kevin is a very reflective personality
and I would rank him high in the UK corporate world.’
Everyone agrees, too, that Murray is one of the PR industry’s nice guys,
whose rise through the corporate ranks has left him largely untouched by
a sense of self-importance.
Being a South African rather than a native Briton has, claims Murray,
helped a lot. ‘I have found that because I’m not British I can be more
objective,’ he says. ‘I found that at Bayer and at AEA Technology.
Culturally that level of objectivity helps to bring another perspective
to the party. My job is about being an insider looking out and an
outsider looking in, and being foreign is a great help.’
How he will adjust to life at BA remains to be seen. ‘I’m a little
surprised BA hired him,’ says one industry source. ‘They are very
superficial in that historically they have always knee jerked into doing
what the media and the City want them to. There are also some fairly
large egos there and the culture is a million miles away from AEA
But for Murray the new job at British Airways is also a kind of coming
home, albeit via a circuitous route. ‘When I was a journalist I did two
years as air and transport correspondent,’ he explains. ‘I always wanted
to get back to the industry so when the opportunity came up to join BA
the marriage of an airline and a major plc made it irresistible.’
1973 Reporter, The Star, South Africa
1981 Group publications editor, Barlow Rand
1988 PR manager, Bayer
1992 Director of corporate communications, Atomic Energy Authority
1996 Director of communications, British Airways