PROFILE: Kevin Murray, British Airways; Off to a flying start with BA

For this travelling man there’s no better place to stop than British Airways

For this travelling man there’s no better place to stop than British

Airways



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

communications.



‘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

Technology.’



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.’



HIGHLIGHTS



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



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