Winners 2018

Young achiever of the year

James Lusher
Interim head of external communications
Virgin Media

Described by Brigitte Trafford, chief corporate affairs officer at Virgin Media, as ‘one of the PR industry’s major players of the future’, James Lusher, who recently turned 30, has enjoyed a stellar career at the telecommunications company since he joined in July 2015.

Appointed interim head of external communications in April 2017, following the departure of Virgin Media’s director of external communications, he took over an eight-person team. Since then he has been a ‘pivotal member… through a time of significant change within the department and the wider business,’ according to Trafford.

Lusher, who started his career at agency Fishburn, managed the response to the restatement of results for Project Lightning, a £3 billion project which aims to connect four million premises to ultra-fast broadband by the end of 2019. Through ‘effective preparation and excellent media management’, the news that Virgin Media had overstated the rollout by 142,000 premises leading to the subsequent suspension of four staff and a senior management reshuffle received limited coverage – just ten national newspaper pieces and minimal regional reporting.

Lusher also led the launch of the V6 TV Box upgrade for existing customers, which generated more than 100 pieces of positive media coverage. Indeed, such was the success of the media campaign in driving demand, that Virgin Media delayed paid marketing support and changed the messaging for the initiative. More than 1.6 million V6 boxes have since been distributed.

Viewed as a talented writer by the team, Lusher has created content that has been used in publications as broad as The Sun and Financial Times. ‘He has an enviable ability to convert the driest of subjects into snappy, tabloid-friendly statements,’ said Trafford. ‘He is very comfortable working at a strategic level, offering trusted PR counsel to members of the executive team as well as other stakeholders across the business.

‘He is highly effective at incorporating commercial, regulatory and creative inputs into his PR programmes which have helped us bring our business strategy to life.’

The judges said that Lusher had ‘taken on a senior role at a young age, managing eight PR professionals’. They added: ‘He has achieved a high profile in a short period, and has several strong achievements under his belt already with the potential to develop even further.’