Advocating for people and ideas
By James Boyd-Wallis
13 September, 2023
Interview with Jane Wallace, Head of Public Affairs at review platform Trustpilot
As a self-proclaimed “political nerd,” Jane Wallace has been captivated by politics and campaigning since studying A-Level politics and later history and international relations at university.
Upon graduation, Jane began her career in the European Parliament. She first worked for the Chair of the European Conservatives, Martin Callanan MEP, now Lord Callanan. She then worked for the Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, MEP – now MP – Vicky Ford.
“It was a privilege working for Martin and Vicky, and I came to realise that I particularly enjoyed the campaigning aspect of the job. Winning people around to a particular view and influencing how an issue or policy develops is hugely interesting,” says Jane.
When working for Vicky Ford, she developed her interest in consumer rights, getting involved in a range of consumer protection issues and legislation. This experience influenced her decision to move into public affairs for the consumer organisation Which?, where she later became Head of Public Affairs.
“Which? is an incredibly empowering place and I thrived there. An aspect of my role was helping to choose what we campaigned on. Sometimes we would look at issues that affected a huge number of people. Other times, we’d look at problems where the number of people impacted might be relatively small, but the detriment to each might be extreme.”
“The heart of public affairs lies in advocating for ideas and people. I love the challenge of identifying issues that resonate with the public and translating these into impactful campaigns,” explains Jane.
One of her standout campaigns was ‘Make Rail Refunds Count’, which dealt with customer refunds in the rail sector. By leveraging the super-complaint power of Which?, the campaign highlighted the lack of timely rail refunds alongside other barriers to compensation, resulting in a significant policy change through the Delay Repay scheme. “This success reaffirmed my belief in the transformative power of strategic campaigning,” says Jane.
The ability to amplify the consumer's voice to help drive change led Jane to the review platform Trustpilot, which she joined in the summer of last year.
As Head of Public Affairs, Jane’s role involves building trust online and navigating the political and regulatory landscapes in the UK, EU and US, working closely with her colleagues in the Trust and Transparency department. Alongside these core markets, she also needs to keep abreast of issues in other markets where there are regulatory aspects of online reviews, such as Singapore for instance.
Her role also includes using reviews on the platform to help inform policymakers about how consumers are responding to certain policy issues. For instance, in December, the firm published a cost-of-living report which used Trustpilot’s extensive review data alongside a UK-wide survey to explore the changes in UK consumer sentiment and business behaviours.
When reflecting on her career, some lessons stand out for Jane.
“First, prioritisation is vital. There is so much you can do, but it is crucial to focus on where you can make the most impact. Second, fear of failure should never stop you from being ambitious and proactive. Last, public affairs is a team effort, so it is important to bring colleagues along on the journey.”
Like many in the sector, Jane is optimistic about the future of public affairs and believes new developments like artificial intelligence will enhance the profession.
“Leveraging AI for more effective public affairs engagement is a new frontier we are all exploring. The potential for AI to facilitate tailored engagement is exciting, yet it also presents new challenges we must adapt to.”
For Jane, public affairs is more than a career; it has allowed her to channel her love for politics into tangible action for the greater good.
“Whether you are an aspiring public affairs professional or a seasoned veteran, the field is rife with opportunities to make a difference,” concludes Jane.
Few can argue with that.