Charlene Wheeless2023-11-12T23:26:33+00:00

Why CommsCollectiv

Charlene Wheeless

Leadership Coach/Keynote Speaker/Author/Co-Founder, CommsCollectiv

Charlene Wheeless is a Co-Founder of CommsCollectiv, a company that provides businesses with access to best-in-class communications expertise on an interim or fractional basis, and a successful business executive, leadership coach/advisor, keynote speaker, and author. With more than three decades of experience in corporate affairs, communications, and operations, Wheeless leads her namesake firm, Charlene Wheeless LLC, where leaders and teams turn to strengthen their performance and leadership capability, communications, executive presence, and influence. Additionally, she is a unique resource to help C-suite leaders, teams, and companies turn DE&I intention into DE&I impact.

Before starting her firm, she served as the principal vice president of Corporate Affairs of Bechtel Corporation, a $40B global infrastructure company. She was responsible for internal and external communications, reputation risk management, issues management, crisis communications, marketing communications, sustainability, and CSR. She provided executive counsel to business unit and C-suite leaders, including the company’s chairman and Bechtel clients, on specific issues critical to the business and worked with foreign government representatives. Additionally, she led the development of a corporate diplomacy and international relations discipline in the company, managed and co-led the company’s HQ relocation from San Francisco to the Washington, DC area, and is credited with rebranding the 100+-year-old firm. She was also a board member of the Bechtel Foundation, the Bechtel Political Action Committee, and its Marketing and Business Development Council. Earlier, Wheeless held senior-level positions at multi-national firms, including Raytheon, CGI, and DynCorp, among others, where she handled M&A communications as well as crises involving government, legal, financial, and reputation risk for individuals and companies for more than 25 years as a senior advisor.

As the first Black female executive at Bechtel and other companies, Wheeless brings a powerful perspective on how to help leaders nurture and develop their minority talent and create a culture of inclusion. She also has emerged as an important voice and influencer on equity and justice and has appeared in scholarly and media outlets, including The Dialogue Project, Forbes, Business Insider, and Chief Executive. She is an equally important voice in shaping the future of the communications profession. Wheeless is the immediate past chairman of the Page Society, the world’s leading professional association for senior public relations, agency, and corporate communications executives. In this role, she provided guidance and strategy to Chief Communications Officers during the most difficult socially and racially charged moments in recent history. In 2021, Wheeless was hand-selected to be a member of Marshall Goldsmith’s prestigious 100 Coaches Community, a collection of top executive coaches and leadership thinkers dedicated to paying it forward. Amplify Publishing released Wheeless’s debut book, “You Are Enough! Reclaiming Your Life and Career with Purpose, Passion and Unapologetic Authenticity”, in mid-2021. The book has achieved bestseller status on numerous lists, including Women and Business, Mentor and Coaching, and Breast Cancer, and won two independent book awards for best non-fiction and inspirational books of 2021.

Wheeless has earned many awards over her career, including two Telly awards and more than 50 additional communications and leadership excellence awards. PR Week named her to the Global Power Book for most influential professionals in Public Relations for five consecutive years and to its Halle of Femme (now called Women of Distinction) Awards. The Network Journal named her among the 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business. The Washington Business Journal also named her as a Woman Worth Watching.

Wheeless is equally committed to her community, serving as the past chairman of the HCA Virginia-Reston Hospital. Other board positions include the Institute for Public Relations, the Page Center, and The Black Experience, an effort to amplify the voices of leaders in the Black Community. She previously served as the chairman of the Reston Chamber of Commerce, was a commissioner on the Loudoun County (VA) Economic Authority, an appointed member of GO Virginia to increase entrepreneurship in the tech industry, and a member of the advisory committee for the George Washington University Virginia Campus. Wheeless is a certified coach from MG Stakeholder Centered Coaching, the International Federation of Coaches, and a National Speakers Association member.

She holds a BA in Journalism/PR, an MA in Public Communications, and an MBA in Marketing. She resides in the Washington DC Metro Area.

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