As well as PR, he will also take charge of Barclays' corporate responsibility initiatives, as it tries to be perceived as a more responsible lender.
Whitehead was made redundant as global corporate affairs director at Allied Domecq at the end of July, after Pernod Ricard bought the company (PRWeek 19 August). He joins Barclays in October and replaces veteran corporate comms director Leigh Bruce, who leaves the group after seven years.
Bruce, a former London correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, is taking six months off. He said that it was 'unlikely' he would take up a similar in-house role.
Like Bruce, Whitehead is not on the Barclays board, but will oversee around 170 staff across corporate and internal comms and government affairs.
His corporate responsibility remit covers everything from Barclays' policy on responsible lending to its 'equality and diversity' employment policy.
Its corporate responsibility director, David Weymouth, left Barclays in April, and chaired Barclays brand and reputation committee, which is now headed by deputy chairman Sir Nigel Rudd.
Before Allied, Whitehead spent five years at drugs giant Eli Lilly, latterly as European corporate affairs director. He was also Grand Metropolitan's external affairs director before its merger with Guinness to create Diageo, after which he became Diageo's group alcohol policy director. Whitehead joined Grand Metropolitan from GlaxoWellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline), where he was UK head of comms.
Last month, Barclays said arrears at its credit card unit had led to a 20 per cent increase in charges and other provisions, which rose to £706m in the six months to 30 June. But record results at investment banking arm Barclays Capital pushed pre-tax profits up nine per cent to £2.69bn.