To get to your buckets, organize your messages into  these three components:

1)  Your Three Key Goals

  1. The Media: What Do  they Want?
  2. You:  How Are You Coming Across?
  3. The Words: Are they making a positive audience impact?

2)  The Two Basic Components to Deliver
a.    Key Messages: What are the one-to-three core     themes to your enterprise?

  1. Drill-downs: Specific examples that prove your key messages

3)  Categorize your Responses into Buckets Including:

  1. SUCCESS
  2. EXECUTIVE AND PERSONNEL
  3. PRODUCTS AND SERVICE
  4. METRICS
  5. MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
  6. MARKET & COMPETITOR

It’s In the Bucket or How to Systematize and Strengthen Your A’s to the Media’s Qs.

By Tom Alderman, PR News Media Training Guide

The goal of any B2M (business-to-media) interview is to give respect to the questions being asked and to deliver your company’s messages in a way that creates, not only a cognitive Velcro with your audience, but an emotional one as well. By emotional, I mean the reaction from your listener is somewhere around, “I like this person, he’s smart, she’s accessible, knows the subject, I want to work with this person.” 

All media training essentially breaks down to the following three fundamental ingredients. YOU: how you come across to the listener. The MEDIA: what do they want, what are they looking for, what’s going to satisfy them? And the WORDS: those wonderfully crafted phrases you work on so diligently – are they making a positive impact on your listener?

When you’re thinking about the words - your key messages and talking points - the PIVOT tactic is essential to all media training. And knowing what BUCKET your answer fits into can be very helpful.

It a simple concept and it works like this: when you get a question you can’t, shouldn’t or don’t want to answer, you begin letting the questioner know WHY you cannot answer.  “We don’t comment on that,” is not your best choice.  Better would be: “You know, I’m hesitant to share that information with you – and our competitors - so if you don’t mind, I’ll take a pass. But what I can tell you….” PIVOT and you’re back on message.

Here’s where the bucket technique comes in.
As part of your preparation for any media encounter, you and your team will work up answers to a variety of expected questions but more important, you will prioritize the key messages YOU WANT TO GET ACROSS. The way to organize your messages and the expected questions is to think of them in terms of  their categories, or buckets. “What bucket does this  question fit into, or what bucket can I pivot it into?”

Example:  Say you’re a privately held company providing technical services and products to businesses.  You are currently third in your space among competitors and are in talks with one of them about a merger.  You do not, CANNOT talk about it, period. But you DO want to talk about your company’s services and your positive market growth. You prepare by organizing your buckets.  All questions about sales, marketing strategy, and the rumors about a merger are answered from the SUCCESS Bucket. In that bucket you’ve prepped two key messages and several drill-down examples of those messages – something like this:

KEY MESSAGE:
“In the short time since our launch two years ago, we’ve gone well beyond our expectations and have become a major player in the industry.”
  
DRILL DOWNS: “While I can’t share with you all our metrics, or future possible acquisitions – something our rivals might like to know, I can tell you that we started out with eight people in the city and no market share.  We’re now 200 strong with offices in Europe and Asia with a 23 percent market share AND the non-profit Institute of Commerce and Technology calls our super-fast tablet offering ‘…an innovated leap.’”

You get a question about the high salaries your C-level execs are reported to be getting and the recent hire of a top executive from one of your rivals. “What’s going on?” asks the reporter.  At this time you do not want to give salary figures but you DO want to talk about the experience and quality of your executive team. This is the EXECUTIVE Bucket.  After the PIVOT from the salary question, pull out of this bucket the messages you’ve put in there about your team - who they are, where they came from, what they’ve achieved. “And they’re worth every penny they get!” 

Your prepared buckets will vary in subject matter depending on what media you’re talking to.  To a business reporter, your buckets will include: 

SUCCESS Bucket: With its one-to-three key messages and drill-downs. 

PRODUCTS Bucket: Pick out which product(s) you want to highlight and their drill-downs.

SERVICE Bucket: Whatever messages are in this bucket, it will help if one of the drill-downs is a rave quote from one of your customers, either specifically by name, or generically such as, “One of the leading computer makers told me…”

Many of your responses will fit into more than one bucket. That’s fine. The bucket system works because it forces you to organize your messages into logical categories for easy access from your mental pull-down menu. “Oh, this is a question for the COMPETITORS Bucket,” or “I can pivot this one into the SERVICE Bucket.”

With retail it’s all about locations. With media interviews, it’s all about what’s in your buckets. Isn’t it time to start filling them up?