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.