Professional Codes

In Module 3, Unit 4, we discussed the subject of ethics in public relations. One of the highlights of that unit is that it is a code of Ethics that separates a profession from other skilled occupations.

The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has a code of practice that public relation practitioners must abide. For you to practice public relations in Nigeria, you must be a registered member the NIPR. It behooves on you as a practitioner to study these various codes and apply them in your practice.


SECTION 3 (v) of the Constitution of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations provides for a Code of Ethics that is recognized as a declaration of principles for the guidance of members of the Institute in the practice of their profession as follows: i. Respect the moral principles of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

and the freedoms entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the performance of his/her duties.

ii. Recognize that each person has the right to reach his/her own judgment of himself/herself.
iii. Respect the right of parties in a dispute to explain their respective points of view.
iv. Encourage the free circulation of public information and preserve the integrity of channels of communications.
v. Put truth and honesty of purpose before all other consideration.
vi. Safeguard the confidences of his/her present and previous employers or clients.
vii. Represent only interests which are not in conflict.
viii. Refuse to enter into any agreement which requires the attainment of certain results before the payment of professional fees.
ix. Protect the professional reputation or practice of another member, but make it his duty to report unethical behaviour on the part of any member of the institute.
x. Not seek to displace any other member with his/her employer or client, except with the mutual agreement of all parties concerned.
xi. Not operate any ‘front’ organisation.
xii. Co-operate with other members upholding and enforcing this code.


“The following code of conduct was adopted by the International Public Relations Associations at its general assembly in Venice, May 1961 and is binding on all members of the Association”.

A. Personal and professional integrity It is understood that by personal integrity is meant the maintenance of both high moral standards and a sound reputation. By professional integrity is meant observance of the constitution, rules and, particularly, the code as adopted by IPRA.

B. Conduct towards clients and employers
1. A member has a general duty of fair dealing towards his clients or employers, past and present.
2. A member shall not represent conflicting or competing interests without the express consent of those concerned.
3. A member shall safeguard the confidences of both present and former clients or employers.
4. A member shall not employ methods tending to be derogatory of another member’s client or employer.
5. In performing services for a client or employer a member shall not accept fees, commissions or any other valuable consideration in connection with those services from anyone other than his client or
employer without the express consent of his client or employer, given
after a full disclosure of the facts.
6. A member shall not propose to a prospective client or employer that his fee or other compensation be contingent on the achievement of certain results; nor shall be enter into any fee agreement to the same effect.

C. Conduct towards the public and the media 1. A member shall conduct his professional activities in accordance with the public interest, and with full respect for the dignity of the individual.
2. A member shall not engage in any practice which tends to corrupt the integrity of channels of public communication.
3. A member shall not intentionally disseminate false or misleading information.
4. A member shall at all times seek to give a balanced and faithful representation of the organisation which he serves.
5. A member shall not create any organisation to serve some announced cause but actually to serve an undisclosed special or private interest of a member or his client or his employer, nor shall he make use of it or any such existing organisation. 
D. Conduct towards colleagues 1. A member shall not intentionally injure the professional reputation or practice of another member. However, if a member has evidence that another member has been guilty of unethical, illegal or unfair practices in violation of this Code, he should present the information to the Council of IPRA.
2. A member shall not seek to supplant another member with his employer or client.
3. A member shall cooperate with fellow members in upholding and enforcing this Code.


IPRA members are also required to abide by a code of ethics, known as the Code of Athens as it was adopted in Athens in May 1965 by the IPRA General Assembly. It was modified slightly in Tehran in April 1968. (The Code of Athens was also adopted to CERP in 1965).

This code obliges every IPRA member to observe a strict moral code. Each member:
Shall endeavour

  1.  To contribute to the achievement of the moral and cultural conditions enabling human beings to reach their full stature and enjoy the indefeasible rights to which they are entitled under the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.
  2.  To establish communications patterns and channels which, fostering the free flow of essential information, will make each member of the society in which he lives feel that he is being kept informed, and also give him an awareness of his own personal involvement and responsibility, and of his solidarity with other members. 
  3.  To bear in mind that, because of the relationship between his profession and the public, his conduct –even in private – will have an impact on the way in which the profession as a whole is appraised. 
  4. To respect, in the course of his professional duties, the moral principles and rules of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.
  5.  To pay due regard to, and uphold, human dignity, and to recognize the right of each individual to judge for himself. 
  6. To encourage the moral, psychological and intellectual conditions for dialogue in its true sense, and to recognize the right of these parties involved to state their case and express their views. 
Sha’l undertake
7. To conduct himself always and in all circumstances in such a manner as to  deserve and secure the confidence of those with whom he comes into contact. 
8. To act, in all circumstances, in such a manner as to take account of the respective interests of the parties involved: both the interests of the
organisation which he serves and the interests of the publics concerned. 
9. To carry out his duties with integrity, avoiding language likely to lead to ambiguity or misunderstanding, and to maintain loyalty to his clients or employers, whether past or present.

Shall refrain from

10. Subordinating the truth to other requirements.
11. Circulating information which is not based on established and ascertainablem facts.
12. Taking part in any venture or undertaking which is unethical or dishonest or capable of impairing human dignity and integrity.
13. Using any ‘manipulative’ methods or techniques designed to create subconscious motivation which the individual cannot control of his own free will and so cannot be held accountable for the action taken on them.
Most national public relations associations have adopted codes of professional conduct which must be observed by their members. The Code of Professional Conduct of the Institute of Public Relations, which was adopted on 31 December 1963, is typical of these codes.


The essential disciplines of good public behaviour by individuals and organizations are set out in. This Institute of Public Relations Code of Professional Conduct. Additionally the Public Relations Consultants Associations has a Code of Consultancy Practice which applies to these member consultancies.

As with other professional bodies accustomed to observing ethical standards, the fact that a public relations practitioner or organisation undertakes to conform with certain ground rules is an assurance of reputable business dealing.

It should be emphasized that IPR members undertake to observe the Institute’s Code when applying to join. It is recommended that they should draw the attention of clients and employers to the code whenever appropriate.

Members should also make themselves aware of the Codes adopted by International groupings within the public relations profession, particularly the Codes of Athens and Lisbon which the IPR supports.
The IPR Code of Processional Practice was reviewed in 1985 and revisions adopted by special resolution at the Institute’s annual general meeting on 9 April 1986.

  1. Standards of professional conduct: A member shall have a positive duty to observe the highest standards in the practice of public relations. Furthermore a member has the personal responsibility at all times to deal fairly and honestly with this client, employer and employers, past or present, with fellow members, with the media of communication and above all else with the public. 
  2. Media of communication: A member shall not engage in any practice which tends to corrupt the integrity of the media of communication. 
  3. Undisclosed interests: A member shall have the duty to ensure that the actual interest of any organisation with which he may be professionally concerned is adequately declared. 
  4.  Rewards to holders of public office: A member shall not, with intent to further his interests (or those of his client or employer), offer to give any reward to a person holding public office if such action is inconsistent with the public interest. 
  5. Dissemination of information: A member shall have a positive duty at all times to respect the truth and in this regard not to disseminate false or misleading information knowingly or recklessly and to use proper care to avoid doing so inadvertently. 
  6. Confidential information: A member shall not disclose (except upon the order of a court of competent jurisdiction) or make use of information given or obtained in confidence from his employer or client, past or present, for personal gain or otherwise. 
  7. Conflict of interests: A member shall not represent conflicting interests but may represent competing interests with the express consent of the parties concerned. 
  8.  Disclosure of beneficial financial interests: A member with a financial interests in or from an organisation shall not recommend the use of that organisation, nor make use of its services on behalf of his client or employer, without declaring his interest. 
  9.  Payment contingent upon achievements: A member shall not negotiate or agree terms with a prospective employer or client on the basis of payment contingent upon specific future public relations achievements.
  10. Employment of holders of public office: A member who employs or is responsible for employing or recruiting a member of either House of Parliament, a member of the European Parliament or a person elected to public office, whether in a consultative or executive capacity, shall disclose this fact, also the object and nature of the employment to the Executive Director of the Institute who himself falls into any of these categories shall be directly responsible for disclosing of causing to be disclosed to the Executive Director of the Institute who himself falls into any of these categories shall be directly responsible for disclosing or causing to be disclosed to the Executive Director the same information as may relate to himself. (The register referred to in this clause shall be open to public inspection at the offices of the Institute during office hours). 
  11. Injury to other members: A member shall not maliciously injure the professional reputation of another member. 
  12. Reputation of the profession: A member shall not conduct himself in a manner which is or is likely to be detrimental to the reputation of the Institute or the profession of public relations. 
  13. Upholding the code: A member shall uphold this Code, shall cooperate with fellow members in so doing and in enforcing decisions on any matter arising from its application. If a member has reason to believe that another member has been engaged in practices which may be in breach of this Code, it shall be his duty first to inform the member concerned and then to inform the Institute if these practices do not cease. It is the duty of all members to assist the Institute to implement this Code, and the Institute will support any members so doing. 
  14. Other professions. A member shall, when working in association with other professionals, respect the codes of other professions and shall not knowingly be party of any breach of such codes. 
  15. Professional updating: A member shall be expected to be aware of, understand and observe this Code, any amendments to it and any other codes which shall be incorporated into this Code and to remain up to date with the content and recommendations of any guidance or practice papers as may be issued by the Institute and hall have a duty to take all reasonable steps to conform to good practice as expressed in such guidance or practice paper
  16.  Instruction of others: A member shall not knowingly cause or permit another person or organisation to act in a manner inconsistent with this Code or be a party to such action. 

The IPR issues an Interpretation of this Code which can be obtained from the IPR at Gate House, 1 St. John’s Square London ECIM 4DH.


This code was approved by the General Assembly of the European Confederation of Public Relations (CERP) at Lisbon on 16 April 1987 and amended on 13 May 1989, Nearly all the European public relations associations are members of CERP so this code is binding on all their members.

SECTION 1: Criteria and standards of professional qualification of practitioners bound by this Code.

Clause I

Every professional member of (national association) duly admitted as such in accordance with the rules of (national association) is deemed for the purpose of this Code to be a public relations practitioner, and to be bound by the Code.

SECTION II: General professional obligations

Clause 2
In the practice of his profession, the public relations practitioner undertakes to respect the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in particular the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press which give effect to the right of the individual to receive information.

He likewise undertakes to act in accordance with the public interest and not to harm the dignity or integrity of the individual.

Clause 3
In his professional conduct, the public relations practitioner must show honesty, intellectual integrity, and loyalty. In particular he undertakes not to make use of comment, or information which, to his knowledge or belief, are false or misleading. In the some sprit he must be careful to avoid the use, even by accident, of practices or methods incompatible with this Code.

Clause 4
Public relations activities must be carried out openly: they must be readily identifiable, bear a clear indication of their origin, and must not tend to mislead third parties.

Clause 5
In his relations with other professions and with other branches of social communications, the public relations practitioner must respect the rules and practices appropriate to those professions or occupations, so far as these are compatible with the ethics of his own profession.

A public relations practitioner must respect the national code of professional conduct and the laws in force in any country in which he practices his profession and exercise restraint in seeking personal publicity.

Section III: Specific professional obligations


Clause 6
A public relations practitioner shall not represent conflicting or competing interests without the express consent of the clients or employees concerned.

Clause 7
In the practice of his profession, a public relations practitioner must observe complete discretion. He must scrupulously respect professional confidence, and in particular must not reveal any confidential information received from his clients or employers, past, present or potential, or make use of such information, without express authorization.

Clause 8
A public relations practitioner who has an interest which may conflict with that of his client or employer must disclose it as soon as possible.

Clause 9
A public relations practitioner must not recommend to his client or employer the service or any business or organisation in which he has a financial, commercial or other interest without first disclosing that interest.

Clause 10
A public relations practitioner shall not enter a contract with his client or employer under which the practitioner guarantees quantified results.

Clause 11
A public relations practitioner may accept remuneration for his services only in the form of salary or fees, and on no account may be accept payment or other material rewards contingent upon quantifiable professional results.

Clause 12
A public relations practitioner may accept remuneration for his services to a client or an employer any remuneration from a third party, such as discounts, commissions or payments in kind, except with the agreement of the client or employer.

Clause 13
When the execution of a public relations assignment would be likely to entail serious professional misconduct and imply behaviour contrary to the principles of this Code, the public relations practitioner must take steps to notify his client or employer immediately, and do everything possible to see that the latter respects the requirements of the Code. If the client or employer persists in his intentions, the practitioner must nevertheless observe the Code irrespective of the consequences to him.


Clause 14
The spirit of this Code and the rules contained in preceding clauses, notably clauses 2,3,4 and 5, imply a constant concern on the part of the public relations practitioner with the right to information, and however, the duty to provide information, within the limits of professionals confidence. They imply also a respect for the rights and independence of the information media.
Clause 15

Any attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives is forbidden. News must be provided without charge or hidden rewards for its use or publication. 

Clause 16 
If it should seen necessary to maintain the initiative in, and the control of, the distribution of information, within the principles of this Code, the public relations practitioners may buy space or broadcasting time in conformity with the rules, practices and usages in that field.


Clause 17

The public relations practitioners refrain from unfair competition with fellow practitioners. He must neither act nor speak in a way which would tend to depreciation the reputation or business of a fellow practitioner, subject always to his duty under Clause 19b of this Code.


Clause 18 

The public relations practitioner must refrain from any conduct which may prejudice the reputation of his profession. In particular he must not cause harm to his national association (name), its efficient working, or its good name, by malicious attacks or by any breach of its constitution or rules. 
Clause 19
The reputation of the profession is the responsibility of each of its members. The public relations practitioner has a duty not only to respect this Code himself but also:

a. to assist in making the Code more widely and better known and understood; b. to report to the competent disciplinary authorities any breach or suspected  breach of the Code which comes to his notice, and
c. to take any action in his power to ensure that rulings on its application by such authorities are observed and sanctions made effective.

Any practitioner who permits a violation of the Code will be considered as having himself breached the Code.


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