Profile: Writing a new chapter - Christian Cull, director of customer communications, BSkyB

Colleagues warned Christian Cull that his first 12 months at Sky would be like 'trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant'. However, the unflappable director of customer communications shows little sign of strain.

He has just returned from the V Festival, where he watched Kasabian from the side of the stage, along with his five-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. Later this evening, he is meeting some journalists before he heads home to Reigate in Surrey.

As a former journalist - he cut his teeth on trade titles including The Grocer - Cull sees himself as a words man and admits that he misses his Apple Mac from his writing days. His father was a teacher and the decision to move into journalism was the natural progression from his English degree.

He recently joined Sky from Waitrose, where he made his mark by overseeing marketing campaigns that told the human story behind its products to make a connection with consumers.

Representing a grocery brand that has a great deal of heritage and an established premium positioning is a long way from working at Sky, though; while the satellite broadcaster has finally escaped from associations with unsightly satellite dishes hanging off buildings, it still has a way to go to reach its target of 10m subscribers by 2010.

Cull agrees that his roles at Waitrose and Sky are worlds apart. 'One of the key differences is scale - Waitrose controlled 4% of the grocery market and was up against a string of competitors,' he says. In contrast, Sky is already in 8.5m consumer's homes. 'Food is tangible and it's straightforward to humanise the story - here we have fabulous content such as Sky News, but there isn't the immediate customer contact.'

Although rivals say Sky is cautious and 'overtly corporate', Cull says that it has not turned out to be the business he thought it was. 'Everyone at Sky is really engaged with the company and hugely welcoming,' he says.

Cull is well-liked within the industry and Ken Hoggins, creative partner at MCBD, who has worked with him for many years, credits Cull with a 'boyish charm', saying: 'He was always terribly good company with a well-held point of view and an astute PR brain.'

With responsibility for customer promotions, loyalty, publications and consumer PR, Cull has a wide-ranging remit. Joining the pay-TV giant weeks before it was plunged into a public war of words with Virgin Media meant there was little time to settle in. Cull is impressively restrained on the row. 'Inevitably we have to set our stall out against Virgin and Setanta, and this means ensuring customers get the full picture,' he says. 'If we believe what our rivals are saying could be misinterpreted, it is up to us to set it straight.'

Cull is equally measured on the press coverage of the spat. 'There is the media debate and the customer debate, and they are two separate things. Customers vote with their feet and we are experiencing astonishing growth and we want to build on that.' Indeed, Sky is currently experiencing its fastest customer growth for six years.

Cull's background in journalism also provides a good base to relaunch Sky The Magazine, the biggest magazine in the UK, with a circulation of more than 7m. At Waitrose, he had backed Waitrose Food Illustrated, which is held up by many as one of the best examples of customer publishing in the business.

It is notable that, under Cull, the relaunched Sky title (now Skymag) features Billie Piper - soon to star in Belle de Jour on ITV2 - as its first cover star. The title is moving upmarket and targeting ABC1 women, with a more wide-ranging editorial remit as opposed to promoting only Sky content. 'We have to credit people to know that Sky is part of a broader entertainment world,' he says.

Cull looks to be embracing that world wholeheartedly. 'I didn't expect to feel quite as energetic as I do,' he enthuses. 'Here it's not as if the glass is half-full or half-empty; we have a whole swimming pool full'.

1995-1998: Journalist, William Reed (Value Retailing, The Grocer)
1998-1999: Account director, Nexus Choat PR
1999-2001: Associate director, Holmes & Marchant Counsel PR
2001-2005: Head of press and public relations, Waitrose
2005-2007: Marketing director, Waitrose
2007-present: Director of customer communications, BSkyB