Codes of Practice

Members subscribe to the following codes and guidelines: the PRII Code of Practice for Public Affairs & Lobbying, the International Code of Ethics (Code of Athens), the European Code of Professional Practice (Code of Lisbon). They also subscribe to the Institute's Social Media Guidelines.

Code of Athens

CONSIDERING that all member countries of the United Nations Organisation have agreed to abide by its Charter which reaffirms "its faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person" and that having regard to the very nature of their profession, public relations practitioners in these countries should undertake to ascertain and observe the principles set out in this Charter.

CONSIDERING that, apart from "rights", human beings not only have physical or material needs but also intellectual, moral and social needs, and that their rights are of real benefit to them only insofar as these needs are essentially met.

CONSIDERING that, in the course of their professional duties and depending on how these duties are performed, public relations practitioners can substantially help to meet these intellectual, moral and social needs.

And lastly, CONSIDERING that the use of techniques enabling them to come simultaneously into contact with millions of people gives public relations practitioners a power that has to be restrained by the observance of a strict moral code.

On all these grounds, the PRII hereby declares that it accepts as its moral charter the principles of the following Code of Ethics and that if, in the light of evidence submitted to the Council, a member of the Institute should be found to have infringed this Code in the course of his professional duties, he will be deemed to be guilty of serious misconduct calling for an appropriate penalty.

Accordingly, each member of the PRII:

Shall endeavour:

  • 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
  • To establish communication patterns and channels which, by fostering the free flow of essential information, will make each member of the group feel that he/she is being kept informed, and also give him an awareness of his/her own personal involvement and responsibility, and of his/her solidarity with other members
  • To conduct himself always and in all circumstances in such a manner as to deserve and secure the confidence of those with whom he/she comes into contact
  • To bear in mind that because of the relationship between his/her profession and the public, his/her conduct - even in private - will have an impact on the way in which the profession as a whole is appraised

Shall undertake:

  • To observe, in the course of his/her professional duties, the moral principles and rules of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • To pay due regard to, and uphold, human dignity, and to recognise the right of each individual to judge for his/herself
  • To establish the moral, psychological and intellectual conditions for dialogue in its true sense, and to recognise the fight of the parties involved to state their case and express their views
  • 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/she serves and the interests of the publics concerned
  • To carry out his/her undertaking and commitments, which shall always be so worded as to avoid any misunderstanding, and to show loyalty and integrity in all circumstances so as to keep the confidence of his/her clients or employers, past or present, and of all the publics that are affected by his/her actions

Shall refrain from:

  • Subordinating the truth to other requirements
  • Circulating information which is not based on established and ascertainable facts
  • Taking part in any venture or undertaking which is unethical or dishonest or capable of impairing human dignity and integrity
  • Using any manipulative methods or techniques designed to create subconscious motivations which the individual cannot control of his own free will and so cannot be held accountable for the action taken on them

Code of Lisbon

The following are the criteria and standards of professional qualification set out for practitioners bound by this Code.

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

General professional obligations

In the practice of his/her profession, the public relations practitioner undertakes to respect the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and , in particular , to freedom of expression and freedom of the press which affect the right of the individual to receive information. He/she likewise undertakes to act in accordance with the public interest and not to harm the dignity or integrity of the individual.

In his/her professional conduct, the public relations practitioner must show honesty, intellectual integrity and loyalty. In particular , he/she undertakes not to make use of comment or information that, to his/her knowledge or belief, is false or misleading. In the same spirit he/she must be careful to avoid the use, even by accident, of practices or methods incompatible with this Code.

  • 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.
  • In his/her 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/her 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/she practices his/her profession and must exercise restraint in seeking personal publicity.

Specific professional obligations

Conduct towards the public

  • Shall at all times be familiar with and observe all relevant EU, local, national and international law in force, with particular regard to the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015; shall have due regard for the public interest and shall not seek to improperly influence the decision-making processes of government, whether local or national, or the E.U. Institutions.
  • Shall take reasonable steps to ensure that all information supplied, and representations made, by them to third parties is factually accurate and honest.
  • Will actively disclose, at the earliest possible opportunity, the identity of clients on whose behalf they are making representations on matters of public policy or decision-making, current or proposed legislation, or in respect of the business of the Oireachtas, Northern Ireland Assembly, local authorities, the European Parliament or any other parliament or legislative assembly.
  • Shall ensure that any financial relationships involved in their professional dealings are legal and ethical. Members shall not act in such a way as to place public officials in a real or potential conflict of interest, or to make any offer, inducement, reward (direct or in-direct) that would result in the public official being in apparent breach of his/her obligations under ethics legislation or statutory codes of conduct.
  • Shall act at all times in a professional, ethical and reasonable manner and shall not bring unreasonable or undue pressure or influence to bear in their activities as public affairs practitioners. All public officials should, at all times, be treated with courtesy and respect.
  • Where he/she is a member of a local authority or is appointed by the government to any state or semi-state body, or is engaged by such organisations on a consultancy basis, shall not offer public affairs consultancy services to third parties in respect of the business or related activities of that authority, body or organisation as well as to related, linked or subsidiary organisations.
  • Shall not offer public affairs consultancy services and simultaneously be a member of the Oireachtas, Northern Ireland Assembly, UK Parliament, European Parliament, or other parliaments or legislative assemblies.
  • Shall not offer public affairs consultancy services for financial reward or other inducements and simultaneously be employed in the Public Service or engaged as a full time adviser to government.
  • Shall, while attending any parliamentary or other representative assembly, national or local government building, observe the rules and procedures of that institution.

Towards clients or employers

  • A public relations practitioner shall not represent conflicting or competing interests without the express consent of the clients or employers concerned.
  • In the practice of his/her profession, a public relations practitioner must observe complete discretion. He/she must scrupulously respect professional confidence, and in particular must not reveal any confidential information received from his/her clients or employers - past , present or potential - or make use of such information, without express authorisation. A public relations practitioner who has an interest that may conflict with that of his/her client or employer must disclose it as soon as possible.
  • A public relations practitioner must not recommend to his/her client or employer the services of any business or organisation in which he has a financial, commercial or other interest without first disclosing that interest.
  • A public relations practitioner shall not enter a contract with his client or employer under which the practitioner guarantees quantified results.
  • A public relations practitioner may accept remuneration for his/her services only in the form of salary or fees . On no account may he accept payment or other material rewards contingent upon quantifiable professional results.
  • A public relations practitioner shall not accept as a reward for his/her 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.
  • 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/her 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/her intentions, the practitioner must nevertheless observe the Code irrespective of the consequences to him/her.

Towards public opinion and the information media

  • 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 moreover the duty to provide information, within the limits of professional confidence. They imply also a respect for the rights and independence of the information media.
  • Any attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives is forbidden. News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use or publication. If it should seem necessary to maintain the initiative in and the control of the distribution of information within the principles of this Code the public relations practitioner may buy space or broadcasting time in conformity with the rules, practices and usages in that field.

Towards fellow practitioners

  • The public relations practitioner must refrain from unfair competition with fellow-practitioners. He/she must neither act nor speak in a way which would tend to deprecate the reputation or business of a fellow practitioner, subject always to his/her duty under clause 10b of this Code.

Towards the profession

  • The public relations practitioner must refrain from any conduct which may prejudice the reputation of his profession. In particular he/she must not cause harm to the PRII, its efficient working or its good name by malicious attacks or by any breach of its constitution or rules.
  • The reputation of the profession is the responsability of each of its members. The public relations practitioner has a duty not only to respect this Code personally but also to:

a) assist in making the Code more widely and better known and understood

b) report to the competent disciplinary authorities any breach or suspected breach of the Code which comes to his notice

c) take any action in his power to ensure that rulings on its application by such authorities are observed and sanctions made effective.

Public Affairs & Lobbying

Professional public affairs practice and lobbying are proper, legitimate and important activities that are essential within any democratic system. Those activities ensure an open two-way communication between national and local government (including the Oireachtas, the entire public service, as well as other bodies funded wholly or mainly from public funds), the institutions of the European Union (EU) and bodies whose activities and interests are governed, regulated, impacted or otherwise influenced by such institutions.

Public relations practitioners will, from time to time, make representations to public representatives of all types, whether elected, co-opted, appointed, public servants, those employed in the public service, or those appointed to public bodies (for the purposes of this Code all such people will henceforth be referred to as public officials).

In order to ensure that the activities of its members are conducted to the highest possible standards of practice and ethics, the PRII adopted this Code of Professional Practice in 2003, which is a condition of membership of the Institute. In light of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, it was amended in 2016.

The code directs PRII members to the acceptable and appropriate standards of behaviour in public affairs activity. It reflects the requirement of the Regulation of Lobbying Act and complements the obligations of public officials under the Ethics in Public Office Acts, Local Government Acts, Electoral Acts and standard terms of employment and other rules which also govern the activities of such officials. However it goes beyond the basic legal minimum requirements and speaks to the high professional standards demanded by and of PRII members.

For the purposes of this Code of Professional Practice, public affairs practice is defined as:

All activity associated with representing the interests of a client or employer in relation to any matter of public policy, including:

  • the provision of professional advice to clients/employers on matters relevant to public policy or law; or procurement, selection, nomination or appointment for public contract or office;
  • lawful and ethical actions intended to promote a change of public policy, law or the expenditure of public funds; and
  • the making of representations, or the advocacy of a point of view, to any persons or institutions, including the provision of information and advice.

Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers

The PRII Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers state that: "When engaging with Influencers, it unethical and illegal to pay for space, endorsement or positive comment without that being clearly declared as such. Fundamentally, the principles of engagement with traditional media, also hold true for social media influencers."

News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use or publication and it is unethical under the PRII Codes of Ethics to attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives. Failure to comply with can result in disciplinary action. It is also illegal under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, for editorial content to be used to promote a product if it is not made clear that the promotion is a paid promotion.

The PRII Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers have been developed in light of the depth and scope of our members' backgrounds and working briefs and to reflect a considerable broadening of the role and responsibilities of PR professionals from the traditional media relations base, to highlight its cross-functionality with a variety of disciplines including journalism, advertising, marketing, legal, financial, healthcare and commercial functions which we work with.

A recording of our recent webinar with the ASAI and CCPC, as well as their guidance, allowing PRII Members readily access the information they need to help them comply along with the PRII Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers are available in Members Area.

To help with the practical adoption of the The PRII Guidelines on Engagement with Social Media Influencers we set out a number of principles for interaction for both PRII Members and separately their clients / employers on how they should approach their work with influencers.

It is unethical and illegal to pay for space endorsement or positive comment without that being clearly declared as such.

It is forbidden under the PRII Codes of Ethics to attempt to deceive public opinion or its representatives. News must be provided without charge or hidden reward for its use or publication.

Failure to comply can result in disciplinary action.

It is illegal under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 for editorial comment to be used to promote a product if it is not made clear that the promotion is a paid promotion.

Conviction can lead to a penalty of up to €3,000 fine and six months in prison.

There are also certain Revenue guidelines which members and influencers should be aware of in order to comply with their tax obligations.