CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - Cracking down on late payment

Client: The Better Payment Practice Group

Client: The Better Payment Practice Group

PR Team: Polhill Communications

Campaign: Changing the Payment Culture

Timescale: April 1998 ongoing

Budget: pounds 70,000

Late payment is a perennial problem for British business. Every year

companies liquidate because they are not paid on time. Statistics show

44 per cent of all transactions are paid 15 or more days late in the UK,

compared to 35 per cent in the EU overall.

The Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG) was set up by the Government in

1997 to tackle the problem. The group is made up of 16 trade and

professional organisations including British Chambers of Commerce, the

CBI and the British Bankers Association.


To support the introduction of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts

(Interest) Act 1998 and spread the message about the importance of

prompt payment among all sectors of the business community.

Strategy and Plan

Following research among senior business people, Polhill developed a

three-stage programme to meet the objectives of the campaign.

In July 1998, the granting of Royal Assent to the Late Payment Act was

used as a launch pad to introduce the group and its schedule of


A media relations campaign was launched, targeting around 1,100


In August, the emphasis switched to promoting a free, ’plain English’

guide to the legislation.

Stage two of Polhill’s work was to raise one-third of the campaign

budget by recruiting four sponsors - Dun and Bradstreet, Euler Trade

Indemnity, Grant Thornton and Alex Lawrie.

The Better Payment Practice Campaign was launched in October to coincide

with the Act hitting the statute books. Barbara Roche, at the time small

firms minister, presented the objectives of the campaign at a press

conference at the British Bankers Association.

A CD of pre-recorded interviews was made available and a media pack

distributed to key media after the press conference. In addition to the

media relations campaign, Polhill has also been responsible for

cascading information to members of the various bodies in the BPPG.

This year, Polhill has attempted to keep the campaign ’front-of-mind’

through initiatives including research by Alex Lawrie into excuses used

by companies for paying late.

Measurement and Evaluation

The hours spent selling the campaign paid off, with 1,161 mentions about

late payment legislation and 356 about the BPPG. The launch was well

covered by broadcast media, including Sky News, BBC News 24 and Today,

and by most of the national press. In September, the Times ran a

supplement on prompt payment, which included contributions from the


There have been more than 300,000 requests for information about better

payment practice. A study by Grant Thornton shows UK performance on late

payment is improving, but it will be at least a year before the full

impact of the campaign can be assessed.


Polhill had the difficult job of communicating with a broad media

spectrum, not to mention members of the bodies making up the BPPG. This

involved careful targeting of press releases and spending many hours on

the telephone generating interest.

The campaign was rewarded with the 1999 IPR Sword of Excellence in the

industry and commerce category.

Having kicked off awareness of the problem, the challenge now is to keep

the initiative going and to try to ensure that British business really

does do something to wipe out late payment.

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