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PR Toolkit

  • Introduction

    Have you ever questioned if your last media interview was a success or if it was the right time to distribute a press release? To effectively respond to media requests or convey timely news, it is important to consider what is news, why it’s so compelling and when it’s time to share it with your audiences. As an ICF Chapter Leader, it is critically important to develop, and be prepared to deploy, a communications strategy for your Chapter. In an attempt to make your communication as effective and newsworthy as possible and to help execute an ongoing media strategy, we have developed a PR Toolkit as a resource for you and your Chapter.

    The PR Toolkit includes the following materials:

    • ICF media protocols and key messages
    • Best practices/tips on how to:
      • Engage and pitch the media
      • Develop media lists
      • Promote earned media coverage
    • Story ideas to promote the coaching profession and ICF
    • Public relations FAQ and definitions of common term
    • ICF-approved graphics/photographs
    • Additional resources and key communications contacts
  • Best Practices

    The media are powerful channels through which to share the story of coaching, reach potential coaching clients, and ultimately increase awareness and positive perceptions of the coaching industry. Proactive media engagement, which involves direct outreach to journalists as opposed to responding to incoming media inquiries, is an important tactic in an overall public relations strategy. Below are best practices to guide your engagement with members of the media.

    Engaging and Pitching the Media

    When the opportunity exists to create and tell a story, it is important to take the time to consider your approach to engaging and pitching the media. Determine who you want to engage, what you want your audience to know and why, and the most appropriate time to reach out.

    Here is a list of key considerations before engaging in media activity:

    Internal Coordination
    The collective communication team is a partnership. Before you can proactively engage media, you must understand what you are saying, how you are saying it and to whom. Before media activity is conducted, it will be important to 1) identify and prioritize media targets; 2) determine the technique or vehicle used to communicate with media; 3) assign spokespeople for phone and in-person media briefings; and 4) clarify roles and responsibilities prior to media outreach.

    Knowing your audience is the first step to creating an effective pitch. Broadcast and print outlets cover news very differently and so your contact with producers and editors should be tailored to appeal to their specific demographics and media formats.

    Once you identify your media targets’ audience and the appropriate media channel, you must consider your goals for this coverage. For example, why are you distributing the information? How do you hope media will use this information? The goal for broadcast coverage is on-air interviews. For print, the goal is an interview by phone or pick-up of shared written materials.

    Identifying audiences, and understanding their interests and the way in which media feature news, will ensure effective communications.

    Dates and Times
    Consider the time of day, week, month and year you are pitching so as to be mindful of other coverage that may take precedence. Also, be conscious of reporter deadlines and editorial schedules. For example, Mondays are typically busy with media catching up on stories from the weekend and email inboxes are usually full. Starting in the afternoon through to the end of the day, media are on deadline or closing stories for the day, making them less likely to respond to emails or answer phone calls.

    Consider what other news is being covered. If a major personality or controversy is in the news, for example, this may not be the day to pitch your story. Also, always be aware of breaking news, what’s already been covered, and when media are not likely to be receptive or even physically present. Being mindful of dates and times will help you avoid a pitch being at the bottom of the pile.

    Messaging and Personalization
    Tailor your pitches to each reporter. While research on reporters may seem daunting, a wealth of information is readily available.  Without pandering, a pitch that makes reference to a past article or a known interest of a reporter stands out among a sea of sameness. Take care to address the reporter by name in the salutation and offer your contact information at the end.

    Clarify and provide messages specific to promotion or announcement, as well as standard boilerplate language to ensure messaging is consistent.

    Since other events or news may occur simultaneously, it is important to convey the most critical and positive points that will help garner attention in a short time frame before the window of opportunity has passed.

    There are a number of materials you can develop to share with the media, including press releases, media advisories and media kits.

    A press release is a short, compelling news story written by you (or by a public relations professional) and sent to targeted members of the media. The goal of a press release is to pique the interest of a journalist or publication. The press release should contain all the essential information (who, what, where, when, how And, most importantly, why) for the journalist to easily produce their own story. Details from the press release are used in print, sometimes verbatim. Press releases are often sent to print and online media.  ICF provides press release templates in the Member Toolkit.

    A media advisory, or media alert, invites the media to an event, such as a news conference, grand opening or presentation or alerts them to an impending announcement. It also could be an invitation to attend an event that may or may not be open to the public. Media advisories sent to broadcast media typically outline visual or audio components of the event or planned program.

    A media kit introduces your organization to the media. It contains a description of the organization, bios of executives and spokespeople, relevant graphics, fact sheets, recent press releases and clips of media coverage. It usually does not include media advisories.

    Developing Media Lists

    Once you determine who your audience is and the appropriate channel to reach them, it is time to develop a media list. A media list typically includes a broad range of media contacts, and you can narrow your focus after creating this list, based on the contents of the pitch or press release.

    Starting a media list
    As a general rule of thumb, media lists should include the name of the media outlet, a contact name and title, phone number, and email address. It can also be useful to collect additional information, including websites, the types of stories the outlet or reporter typically covers and a cell phone number, if possible.

    When collecting media outlets, consider the following:

    • All major newspapers in the surrounding area;
    • Specialty publications and magazines;
    • Television and radio stations;
    • Blogs and information websites.

    Researching Target Media
    Reporters receive hundreds of pitches a day from eager communicators looking to get their story placed. Carefully researching your targets can help make sure you are pitching a receptive contact. Reporters are often assigned “beats,” or topics they cover in their writing, but a “business” beat can be extremely wide ranging.

    Reading a reporter’s past coverage is a great way to determine their interests, the tone of their coverage and how frequently they publish. Social media is another great way to gauge a reporter’s interest. Read their updates for clues, and keep in mind many journalists use social media as a way to find sources for stories. That said, also keep in mind the limits of social media as an effective pitching platform (e.g., length constraints, privacy).

    Keeping Media Lists Updated
    Journalism is full of turnover; as such, media lists need to be updated regularly. It is a good habit to reevaluate your media list prior to each pitch or press release to make sure you have the most up-to-date contacts. Regularly reading or viewing stories related to coaching can also be a great way to add new contacts to a list.

    It is equally important to maintain your list of contacts and to document your engagement with each individual. This is particularly critical if more than one person is conducting outreach. Create a notes section for each contact where you can enter information such as when a contact was pitched, his/her response or feedback, and the results of engagement. This will create a record for the future and help you target the most receptive media.

    Promoting Earned Coverage

    Once you have successfully placed a media story, it is time to share that coverage with your stakeholders. Promoting earned coverage helps raise awareness of your organization and shows the effectiveness of your communications program to your members.

    How to Share Earned Coverage
    Your own channels, such as a Chapter website, newsletter or online newsroom are a great way to promote and share media coverage. In many cases, copyright prohibits sharing of full text of articles, but many of today’s news stories are available online.

    When sharing links to earned media coverage, give a brief one- to two-sentence summary of the content, your portion of the story and the name of the outlet and reporter. If the content is behind a paywall, indicate this with a simple note of “subscription required.”

    If your coverage is not available in an easily shareable format, many outlets offer reprints of articles for a nominal fee.

    Promoting on Social Media
    Social media is an important platform to not only share earned coverage, but connect it to the reporter and outlet. Again, give a brief one- or two-sentence summary of the content and your portion of the story; if possible, tag the appropriate social media accounts of the outlet and reporter.

    A hashtag such as #coaching or #ICF(Chapter name) is appropriate but resist the urge to insert as many hashtags as possible, as they’ll limit your space for content on character-restricted platforms.

  • Storylines

    This PR Toolkit is designed to equip ICF Chapter Leaders with the tools and information needed to conduct proactive media outreach and earn desirable press coverage. Media engagement can often be a process, with relationship building being critical to success. Of even greater importance is the content or substance of what you wish to communicate to target audiences through the media, which can simply be classified as your “story idea.”

    In an effort to jumpstart this thinking, we are providing four initial storylines that can be packaged and used for your own media outreach. This list will continue to grow, and we encourage you to share your own storylines that have garnered positive results for your chapter. Please contact the ICF PR staff at with questions or ideas.

    Story Idea #1: Hiring the Right Professional Coach

    The reasons for partnering with a coach are vast, as are the benefits—from improved leadership skills and enhanced workplace performance to a better outlook on life or simply achieving a specific set of personal goals. As more individuals and companies discover that coaching inspires them to maximize personal and professional potential, the number of practicing coaches will continue to grow. It’s important to find the right one for your needs and requirements. That means it will take some work to find a coach who is well-prepared, qualified and credible.

    A related story will provide tips that help your audience navigate the process of finding the right coach:


    Content Ideas

    • Take time to become educated about what coaching is
    • Reflect on your goals and objectives to be well-equipped to develop a strategy and achieve those outcomes
    • Interview at least three coaches before deciding
    • Confirm credibility – best done by confirming ICF Membership and/or Credential; distinguish between trained practitioners with strong ethical commitments and untrained individuals who simply call themselves coaches

    Story Idea #2: Building a Coaching Culture

    In today’s workplace, whether it is a small business or large corporation, a strong company culture is not only desirable, almost non-negotiable. Similar to salary and benefits, it is becoming an attributed facto decision-making factor for both new and seasoned employees. Company leaders are recognizing a respected culture can be as critical to business success as financial performance. In many cases, organizations are boosting employee engagement and development by offering coaching and coaching-skills training for managers and leaders.

    A related story will offer tips that help your audience create a coaching culture.


    Content Ideas

    • Start from the top, but make professional coach practitioners available to everyone
    • Use a combination of modalities (external coach practitioners, internal coach practitioners and managers/leaders using coaching skills) to achieve goals
    • Establish high standards in your coach practitioner(s)
    • Make a strong investment and measure returns

    Story Idea #3: The Ethics of Professional Coaching

    In any business environment, ethical awareness and competence can make or break a profession, an organization and its people. As a first step, it is critically important to acknowledge that ethics are more than right or wrong, but rather an understanding of the concepts and principles that direct professionals’ behavior. As the preeminent global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) has taken the lead in developing a definition and philosophy of coaching, as well as in establishing ethical standards for its members.

    A related story will highlight the global standards that provide a qualified baseline for individuals and organizations investing in coaching.


    Content Ideas

    • Encourage the audience to look for ethical behavior across the five key areas of coaching commitments as defined in Part Two: The ICF Standards of Ethical Conduct
      • Professional conduct at large
      • Conflicts of interest
      • Professional conduct with clients
      • Confidentiality/privacy
      • Continuing development

    Story Idea #4: Building the Business Case for Professional Coaching

    Whether a business is examining a process conversion or new management effort, stakeholders and executives must be able to evaluate the reasoning and implications in support of a particular business need or solution.

    As a strategic initiative, professional coaching will typically require a valid business case.

    A relevant story will provide general guidelines to help build confidence, adoption and investment in professional coaching.


    Content Ideas

    • Build a team, considering which other leaders may help support the coaching effort, including HR and talent development
    • Be on the same page in terms of what coaching is and what it isn’t
    • Set objectives for the coaching program that factor in desired outcomes in combination with defined business needs
    • Define the benefits of the coaching program in a way that demonstrates the business value
  • Public Relations FAQs and Definitions of Common Terms

    Below are frequently asked questions about the general practice of public relations, as well as several commonly used terms and definitions. This list is not exhaustive so if you have additional questions, please contact the ICF PR staff at

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is public relations (PR)?
    At its core, PR is about building trust and communicating important and valuable information. This often includes creating a strong brand and a great reputation to allow you to foster productive relationships. Those relationships might be with the general public, consumers (potential customers and clients; employees; government officials, agencies and regulators) and the media.

    What is media relations?
    Media relations is a component of public relations. It refers to interaction with editors, reporters and journalists. The media can include newspapers, radio, television and digital platforms (e.g., websites, blogs, podcasts). The goal of media relations is to communicate a newsworthy message, story or information using the appropriate media outlets.

    What is earned media?
    Earned media coverage is the opposite of paid media— also called advertising. It occurs when a media news organization features your company, service or spokesperson within its editorial content. This contrasts with advertising, which is paid for and typically positioned separately from “the story.” Earned media coverage appears in print, broadcast and online media.

    What is a pitch?
    A pitch is a short communication such as an email, phone call or letter that introduces a journalist to a potential story, an upcoming event or new service. Media pitches are shared with journalists to provide a quick update about your news. The goal is to convince the journalist that your story is of interest and worthy of his or her attention and coverage. Ultimately, you will want the journalist to take your news and subsequently develop stories or broadcast reports (in the formed of “earned media coverage”).

    What is a press release?
    A press release is a compelling written communication directed prepared for the benefit of the media for the purpose of announcing something newsworthy. Press releases are written by you in a style comparable to what you might ultimately hope to see reported by the media and in a form that is consistent with journalistic standards.

    What is a media advisory?
    Sometimes known as a media alert, this short-form, often bulleted, communication invites the media to an event, such as a news conference, or informs them of an impending news story. Media advisories are typically issued using the “Who, What, When, Where, Why” structure, coupled sometimes with visual or audio components of the story.

    How should I measure PR results?
    It is important to set goals at the beginning of your public relations efforts. Goals for measurement can include the number of media placements, sentiment of media coverage, message inclusion in a story that is not all about you and audience reach, to name a few.

    Who is Stanton Communications and what is their relationship to ICF?
    Stanton Communications is ICF Global’s public relations agency of record. Stanton Communications provides public relations counsel, media relations and other strategic communications services to ICF, working directly with the ICF Marketing and Communications staff. Our goal is to build the ICF brand, advance awareness and understanding of professional coaching, and combat negative perceptions of the industry.

    Common Terms

    Angle: The emphasis or focus of a news story or pitch.

    B-Roll: Video produced by you and provided to broadcast outlets as background (B-) footage.

    Backgrounder: A brief review of an organization’s history, mission, financial support, or any other information that can help a journalist develop their stories. Backgrounders are provided to the media along with other publicity materials as a package of information that may be used in a news story. A backgrounder might also be prepared in the form of a fact sheet—a more succinct and often bulleted form of information.

    Boilerplate: The last paragraph of a press release that describes the company, service or brand in question. This is the standard language always used to describe who you are and what you do.

    Earned Media: Favorable publicity gained through efforts such as word-of-mouth and editorial pitching rather than paid advertising.

    Editorial Calendar: A schedule of general topics or story ideas used by publications to plan deadlines for content and publishing.

    Media Advisory: A one-page sheet that alerts reporters to an upcoming news event. It is issued in advance of an event or announcement.

    Pitch: A short communication to a journalist that highlights an organization’s news in order to generate interest and, ultimately, a story.

    Placements: Stories that appear in the media as a result of pitching.

    Press Release: A written communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of sharing newsworthy information.

    Media Kit: A branded packet of materials—printed or electronic—that is provided to the media for informational purposes. It typically contains fact sheets, spokesperson/expert biographies, photos, and news releases. It is also known as a press kit.

    Media List: A list of journalists, their contact information and the names of the media outlets or digital properties with which they are associated.

    Reach: The number of people who read, hear or view a media story.

    Sentiment: The tonality of a story—positive, negative or neutral.

    Spokesperson: A member of an organization or outside subject-matter expert designated to speak to media on behalf of an organization.

    Social Media: Online platforms and services that directly connect users/consumers to share content. Examples include Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • Additional Resources

    As you prepare to engage the media, please reference the following resources from ICF Global that also can be shared with journalists as additional background. If you have questions at any time, please reach out to one of the communications contacts listed at the bottom of this page.

    ICF Fact Sheet

    At the beginning of each month, the ICF Marketing and Communications team compiles a fact sheet outlining key ICF Membership and Credentialing data. You can access an up-to-date Fact Sheet by logging on to and visiting the Member Toolkit.

    ICF Press Room

    ICF Global regularly updates the ICF Press Room. The Press Room includes a library of ICF press releases.

Staff Contact

  • Tyler Parker

    Communications and Community Engagement Coordinator

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