DEIB in Coaching 2) Review Your Marketing Materials (With Checklist) | Abena Baiden & Emma-Louise

Smiling Coach wearing Hijab at desk with laptop, phone, notebook and coffee

Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is an action. Belonging is an outcome. Arthur Chan, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategist

First we're excited you're here!

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely looking for ideas or wondering how coaching can be more inclusive. There will undoubtedly be some who find this topic Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) intimidating or uncomfortable, but the more we normalise it, and approach it with empathy, the easier it will become. Whether you agree or disagree with the points made in this article, it is our hope that reading it promotes awareness and, of course, action!

This article is part of a series where we've suggested 7 Ways You Can Increase (Your) Cultural Awareness in Your Coaching Practice. Here we explore the second step 2) Marketing Materials Audit.

But if you haven’t already done so, we recommend you read DEIB in Coaching 1) Identity Mapping Exercises: The Identity Iceberg (Free .PDF Tool) and complete your identity map before reading on. Why? So that you can join us on this thinking journey and really embrace the 'why' behind what comes next.

What's in this Article

In this article we explore:

  1. What message are you sending?

  2. Getting specific: why doing a Marketing Materials Audit matters

  3. Checklist of Marketing Materials to Audit (specific items to review)

  4. Finally, who gets to see your marketing materials?

  5. Wrap-up and where next?

What message are you sending?

We are always communicating. But what message are we giving?

As coaches, we develop marketing materials to attract clients. These include our website, flyers, social media posts, videos and graphics, outreach emails and any other public-facing media.

In this way, we present our brand which is essentially what we stand for and who our coaching services are aimed at. And people make decisions about working with us when they look at the images, language and tone that we use.

How is this relevant to DEIB?

Have you considered how potential clients really understand and interpret your media?

  • We are always communicating. So even when we remain silent, we're communicating. As coaches we know that non-verbal communication can account for a large proportion of a message.
  • The meaning of your communication is the response you get. While your intention may be clear to you, it's the other person's interpretation and response that reflects the meaning of your communication back to you.

And do you know how someone who is different from you might experience your materials?

Remember that intentionally or unintentionally, you're having an impact. You're always sending a message.

Here's are a couple of quick examples (just considering the images you use):

  1. Imagine you are a young-ish White, able-bodied woman who wants coaching to be a top level executive. You've heard great things about this coach, but when you go to his website, all you see are images of older Black men in suits.
  2. You are a Black, able-bodied woman who wants coaching to be a top level executive. You go to a coach's website and all you see are images of White 40-something women in suits.

Each time you'll wonder, does this coach work with people like me? You might also wonder, if I bring issues around gender/sexism/racism/ageism to the coaching session, will they care or understand?

But this goes beyond race and gender. What if you're a life coach and you have racially diverse images on your website—but all your images are of slim women. You may be inadvertently communicating that you only coach slim people.

Of course the issue isn't the images they have on their website. Perhaps the first coach wants to work with older Black men, and maybe the second coach wants to work with 40-something White women.

The key factor here is intention.

Getting specific: why doing a Marketing Materials Audit matters

Your marketing materials matter. They are your brand—what you put out about yourself and your business in the world.

And while your materials are perfectly aligned to a specific target audience, you may have unintentionally excluded certain individuals or groups.

Things to consider include

Do your visuals represent a range of identities?

There are many areas to consider beyond race and gender like age, size, education, sexual orientation and preference, ability, religious preferences, financial status and more.

In fact many people find when they do their audit that their images are dominated by White, able-bodied, heterosexual, middle-class, young, slim, conservatively-dressed individuals.

  • This is quite common as most stock images and free image websites extensively cover this demographic.
  • It just takes a little extra effort to ensure we have diverse images targeted at our diverse audience.

What about the language you're using?

  • Do you include local, country-specific expressions or jargon that could confuse or exclude certain groups?
    • While jargon can be a way to connect with a specific audience—the question to ask is whether this is intentional.
  • What level of vocabulary do you use? Do you use a lot of intellectual words that may be hard/er for some people to make sense of?
    • What is the education level of your audience?
    • Do you have an audience where English is a second-language?
  • Is there an assumption that people will understand particular ideas for example "B2B", "Mindset", "Type A personality", "Empowerment" etc?
    • Could a glossary help?

Helpful Checklist of Marketing Materials to Audit

Important Note: Although we use the word 'checklist', simply ticking boxes is not enough to be truly inclusive. Instead, the power comes in the reflection, awareness—and action—your reflection brings. Below are simply some points for consideration as we continue our ongoing journey to improve our world!

When you review the marketing materials outlined below, consider:

  • What message/s are you sending?
  • Who are you including?
  • And crucially, who might you be excluding?

And here are 5 specific areas of materials you can review

1) Your website copy

Your copy simply means the words you use! In particular review these 3 essential pages on your website:

  • Your Home Page
  • Your About Page
  • Your Who I Work With page

2) The images you use

Humans are highly visual. So the images you choose matter! Consider images and graphics in:

  • Your blog and articles
  • Any graphics/infographics you share
  • Other website pages
  • Any downloads you offer
  • Your emails
  • Videos

3) The authors of the inspirational quotes you share

We all love quotes. But as you think about the quotes you share:

  • When you consider the demographics of your quote authors (ethnic origin/religion/gender/sexual preferences etc), do they represent the clients you want to serve?
  • Are the quote authors alleged (or actual) racists, misogynists etc.? Have they abused their power, made hateful statements or committed crimes? If so, are you comfortable being associated with them?

Inspirational quotes: food for thought

Would you quote Harvey Weinstein? Or Adolf Hitler? I didn't think so!

But what about J.K. Rowling (who recently got into trouble for making anti-trans comments)? Or H.G. Wells who said: "Our true nationality is mankind", yet was actually a supporter of eugenics, a racist and homophobe.

What about Bill Cosby? Or Roger Waters of the rock band Pink Floyd who has made many antisemitic statements, yet denies being anti-Jew. Do you believe him? What would your audience think?

What would you be unintentionally saying if you chose to share a quote by any of these people?

The question is not whether someone is 'good' or 'bad' but whether you're aware of the actions and demographic of who you're quoting (and any crimes they've committed or controversies that surround them).

4) How does your website perform for people who are visually impaired?

This can be a bit more challenging, but there are some easy things you can do like:

  • Ensure your website images have "Alt Text" set, which is a description of the image which screen text readers read out for the visually impaired.
  • Check your graphics and webpages for colour blindness.

5) Other things you might like to consider include:

  • If you work in more than one language, do you offer an easy way for someone to translate your website?
  • What other abilities, disabilities or preferences might your potential coaching clients have? And how do you address them in your online and offline materials?

Finally, who gets to see your marketing materials?

It's not only about the marketing materials we create, it's also about who has access to them: where do you place your marketing materials?

We're told by marketing experts to create a customer "persona" or "avatar" and then focus all our marketing efforts toward that type of person. But does that persona or avatar truly represent all those you might want to work with?

For your marketing materials, consider:

  • Where are your marketing materials visible/available? Who will see them? Who will not?
  • And the key question again: Is this intentional?

Here's a quick list of places you might put your marketing materials and potential issues:

  • High-End Venues: Distributing materials only in certain areas, gyms, clubs, or boutiques may exclude individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Print Magazines and Newspapers: Relying only on print mediums might exclude younger audiences who primarily access information digitally. It may also overlook those with visual disabilities if no alternative formats are available.
  • Single-Language Publications: Using only one language for your marketing materials, especially in multilingual communities, can limit your reach if you speak and serve clients in more than one language.
  • Gender-Specific Establishments: Placing materials only in venues catering to a specific gender, like men's clubs or women's health centres, might exclude others.
  • Cultural or Religious Centres: Focusing solely on specific cultural or religious centres could inadvertently exclude those outside of these communities.
  • Age-Specific Venues: Places like retirement homes or college campuses cater to specific age groups. Exclusively marketing in such venues can leave out others.
  • Events
    • Accessibility: Do the events you're hosting—or marketing yourself at—have proper accessibility features (like ramps for wheelchairs) or consideration for diverse needs (like providing sign language interpreters). If not you're potentially excluding those with specific needs.
    • Inclusivity: Do the events you're hosting—or marketing yourself at—provide a safe environment for people of every skin-tone, belief, sexual orientation etc.?

A recent real-life example

This year, the ICF hosted their conference in Florida. But in May of this year the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) released a statement saying, "Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color."

As a result, some people decided not to attend the event, and at least one person declined to run their session at the event.

Obviously the decision to host ICF event in Florida was made well in advance of the NAACP statement. But it shows the kinds of things that can influence our own mindset—and that of our clients.

There are no right or wrong answers. Instead the key is to think about it and make intentional choices that align with your audience, your brand—and what matters to you.


We hope you found this eye-opening in a really positive way. Because as you can see, there are many things to consider and options available when promoting our services.

There is no issue with having a target audience, and adapting your materials to suit them. However, having a range of online and offline approaches can widen your reach and inclusivity.

We're suggesting that you do a review of your marketing materials to ensure your media:

  1. Speaks to everyone you intend it to
  2. And doesn't unintentionally exclude people who might be a good fit for you

So, what do you think? What did you learn from this article? And importantly, what will you do differently?

Remember that if you decide to start 'diversity' conversations with fellow coaches in person or in online spaces, you are contributing to greater awareness and a more inclusive coaching industry.

Now watch for the next in this series of 7 articles that looks specifically at what each of us can do in our coaching businesses to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion and minimize our own blind spots.

Where Next?

Lastly, whilst you won't see a disclosure in every article on our blog, we think it's important to do so when covering this DEIB topic:

DISCLOSURE: This article has been written from the perspective of a female who is (largely) heteronormative and of White European descent and another atypical female who is of Ghanaian, Irish, and British descent. We acknowledge that even with both our perspectives and best intentions, we may (like everyone) have blind spots and are open to discussion about these.

So what do you think? Tell us what we missed or what else should be on these lists! What did you take away from this article? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Author Bios

Emma-Louise Elsey HeadshotContributing author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003. She's the founder of both The Coaching Tools and her latest venture, Fierce Kindness where she shares personal tips, tools and ideas to transform ourselves—and our world! Originally a project/relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she's combined her passion for coaching, creativity and love of systems to create 100+ brandable coaching exercises including 30 completely free coaching tools. She serves coaches through her newsletter for coaches and loves to offer ideas for your coaching toolbox!

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Contributing Author:

Abena Baiden (she/hers) GMBPsS is the ACC- and ICF-trained founder of Positively Flourishing. Abena runs adult and teen coaching programs to promote wellbeing and personal development with her practice firmly rooted in the values of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. If not in the classroom or coaching space, you'll find Abena studying for her doctorate (which focuses on coaching in education) or exploring the world from her latest base as an international educator and coach. Lift the lid a little more here

Learn more about Abena & see all their articles here >>

Image of Smiling female coach wearing hijab at desk holding tablet by FS Stock via Shutterstock


  1. Mike Hartman

    I actually signed up many years ago some very good valuable information to use with my coaching clients. I’m very interested in using a lot more is there a way I could talk to Emma as we have talked before. 347-766-1592 is my number Mike Hartman


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