Hirst has been Virgin Media's director of external communications since 2015. Prior to this he was director of comms at Ofcom from 2010 onwards, and his early career was in journalism, latterly as deputy business editor at the Independent on Sunday.
He reports to Simon Fowler, director of communications at the partnership, who said: "Clayton joins us to head up our Corporate Affairs team at a time of huge significance for the partnership as we help the business develop its thinking on the key priorities emerging from the Government's industrial strategy. This includes the UK's direction post-Brexit, as well as the issues facing the partnership from the pressures we've called out affecting society, retail and the workplace."
Hirst said: "I am delighted to be joining the Partnership at such a critical time - with the structural changes taking place in the retail sector and the enormous shifts in public policy resulting from Brexit."
John Lewis itself has a separate consumer-facing comms team from the partnership.
Employee-owned and regularly held up as an example of a socially responsible business, the partnership owns 352-store retailer Waitrose, as well as the UK's 48 John Lewis outlets. It announced a number of other management changes last week.
The company has worked with Citigate Dewe Rogerson on corporate communications for around a decade.