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Oprah-Worthy? How to Get on the Oprah Winfrey Show

The Oprah Winfrey Show
(noun)
1. (also known as Oprah) the highest-rated and longest-running daytime U.S. syndicated talk show. It is hosted and produced by Oprah Winfrey through her company Harpo Productions, Inc.
2. maker of dreams; the holy grail of public relations professionals, authors, entrepreneurs, and individuals seeking exposure for their products, books or services.

One of the most frequent questions we get at eReleases is, “Can you get us on Oprah?”

Short answer: “Yes, in theory.”

Long answer: “Yes, but it is extremely hard. Luck plays a small but important part in this. You have to do your homework. Very few PR firms, even those with lots of experience successfully pitching producers and bookers, can claim to have made it on Oprah.”

While Harpo Productions, the multimedia production company behind The Oprah Winfrey Show and a slew of other talk shows like Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, receives press releases from eReleases, I am not aware of a single eReleases client who has made it onto the show. A few clients have received calls from screeners requesting more information but the magic moment never happened.

Over the past eleven years, our clients have made it to USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, NPR, PBS, and almost every major newspaper, magazine, radio and television outlet.

Why No Love From Oprah?

Unlike a newspaper which is daily, Oprah only does a couple of hundred shows a year. That’s a very limited number of slots to be filled. When you slash that number in half to accommodate celebrities hawking movies and other projects, you are looking at about 100 opportunities. When you take the political, criminal, and human interest episodes that make up a large block of the show into consideration, what does that leave you with? Maybe a couple of dozen opportunities a year.

Oprah Kisses a Lot of Frogs

Believe me when I say Oprah gets tens of thousands of pitches and requests. A lot of these submissions are from people who have not done their homework. Most are unlikely to make it through a low-level gatekeeper as they promote their ideas, inventions, and products. A large number of them are basing their pitches on emotion:

“This is my life’s work. Please help me out.”

“I need you to promote my product because I’m out of money. The bank has foreclosed on my house.”

“I love my family. They are so proud of me.”

Show Don’t Tell

Always lead with facts and then bring the emotion through the story:

“… Not only does this product capitalize on the current social media trend, the fact that one of our users was able to call on fellow members to make a bone marrow match shows just how valuable such a medical networking site can be. Another company highlight includes a doctor who searched our site before treating an unconscious patient to find she was indeed listed and was able to discover what treatments and medications she had been using before being admitted to the hospital. Following the standard course of treatment would have resulted in a deadly interaction.”

What Makes a Pitch Oprah-Worthy

Having watched a few episodes of Oprah, I can tell you what makes a person or product Oprah-Worthy:

Hot Topics & Hot Buttons – Oprah is the pinnacle of talk shows. If your product has been around for a while or is just cute, it is unlikely to resonate with Oprah’s audience, which is used to seeing products launched or discovered on her show. Products and books featured on Oprah become hits because they are worthy of being a craze. That seed of breakout success is there from the beginning. Just add Oprah and watch it grow.

A Story – Oprah loves to discover talent with a personal story. This is the magic of Oprah. Every entrepreneur identifies with this small person plucked from relative obscurity. But there is more to the selection process than an entrepreneur’s hope and desire. Behind every person is a story: a beginning, a middle and an end. Have you written your story? Are you ready to pitch it?

Positive Message – A common theme to Oprah’s segments are elevation, often where a person has risen above obstacles to make it to this level. The show is somewhat socially conservative. If you have built a product or service that blurs ethical or moral lines, you will not make it on Oprah. Even being too cutting-edge or risqué severely handicaps your chances. Most humorous elements that make it to Oprah share a good-natured and family-friendly quality.

Feminine Appeal - The bulk of Oprah’s audience is female. A product designed for men will find a harder time finding a home on Oprah’s show. However, you can still pitch such a product by “wrapping” it correctly: “How about my product for a show on great father’s day presents or top holiday gifts for that special man in your life.”

Television Alchemy

For a more detailed blueprint on how to strike gold by getting yourself and/or your company, book, product or service on the Oprah Winfrey Show, be sure to check Oprah’s section on her website, Tell Us Your Story, where she is looking for guests according to various subjects.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.


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19 Responses

  1. Great tips – The lesson here is don’t waste your time pitching the same thing, the same way, to all of your media contacts. Identify who their target audience is, what they usually focus on and how they prefer ideas to come in. It’s their game, you’re just playing it. Play it by their rules and you will be much more successful!

  2. Getting on Oprah definitely takes a measure of luck. When I was interviewing for the director of comms job at specialty retailer Brookstone in 2002, several executives said, essentially, “just get us on Oprah.” Later that fall, fortune smiled, I landed the company’s newest stereo on her Favorite Things Xmas show, and I was the golden boy. Then, for five years, nothing from Oprah, despite compelling pitches and the promise to lavish expensive gifts on her audience.

    For a PR person, getting on Oprah is a double-edged sword. Yes, your employer or client will thank you and hold you in high regard; but they’ll also expect you to repeat the placement and question your commitment and ability if you don’t.

  3. prfuel says:

    I agree completely about PR success being a double-edged sword. Despite telling many clients that an initial press release is unlikely to create major press, when it does happen with that first press release, the client will later come back and want to know why their second press release didn’t get them in the Wall Street Journal or major news outlet again. It’s all about expectations and accepting the blessings when they come. Then you can proceed with a long-term strategy designed to take luck out of the equation.

  4. Good article on how to work any press opportunity. Do your homework and tell a story that resonates with the audience they are serviing. Thanks so much, will forward along.

  5. You didn’t mention another very important element to getting onto Oprah:

    If you haven’t had any experience in front of a TV camera, on smaller shows and in small markets, don’t even THINK of pitching Oprah. Performing well on a show like hers, and even on the rinky-dink talk shows, is very difficult. It requires well-rehearsed soundbites, timing, knowing how to use props, and the ability to hit one out of the park when the host throws you a curve.

    Without a lot of experience doing TV interviews, and making lots of mistakes you can learn from, trying to get onto Oprah is a huge mistake. Who in their right mind would want to make their mistakes on America’s Number One daytime TV talk show?

  6. Terry Ann W. Sampson says:

    I think Oprah has done a wonderful job with the care and concerns of the public.
    She has done a tremendous job for the many people out there.
    Thanks.

  7. Dr. Bernstein says:

    Thanks so much for your straightforward, helpful comments!

    My best,

    Manny Bernstein

  8. [...] erelease.com, the founder, Mickie Kennedy gives tips and information on how to respond to that [...]

  9. [...] So how does one grab the attention of Oprah Winfrey? Easy, create a publicity campaign. Start locally, targeting the Internet, local newspaper sites and other media forums; Oprah’s bookers, producers and coworkers find out about unique guests through these mediums. [...]

  10. Jonet says:

    Great post. Lots of good stuff here.

  11. ProfNichols says:

    RT @ereleases: How to Get on the Oprah Winfrey Show http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/oprah-wi

  12. LongLiveFit says:

    RT @ereleases: How to Get on the Oprah Winfrey Show http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/oprah-wi

  13. LongLiveFit says:

    @ereleases wow who doesn’t want to be on Oprah? Thanks for the tips!

  14. Juanita C. Barron says:

    My dream is to be in the Oprah show for my birhday which is December 19th and I will turn 80 years old, it falls on a Sunday so I would like to be there on a Friday, I have a cousin her name is Serafina that would join me if possibe. please let me know is it is possible to be in her show.

    Thank you so much
    Juanita C. Barron

  15. I don’t know if this will do any good, but I will give it a try. I have always want to go see Oprah. I truly love her shows and until I retired I was always working and couldn’t even think of going to her show. It has been my dream me I nursed my aging parents thru severe health problems, then my husband got cancer and he fought that for 8 years and he passed away. He wanted to to go badly. I am now re-married and my present husband would love to bring me if we can just get into her show. Can you please help me get into one of her shows. I myself, have had a bout of breast cancer and this is my dream, to see Oprah in person. Thank you so much.

  16. I am one of your the biggest fans, I bave been watching your show since day one. I even have you saved on my screen saver, so I can see you when I get on my computer. I would very much like to be in your audience before your season ends. I hope that someone read my comment today. Please, Please, Please, sends me some tickets to your show. Thank you, so much for sharing yourself with the entire world.

  17. Tara Taylor says:

    Good Morning Oprah, I woke up this morning hoping that I would be the one, to receive something very special. I don’t know rather I deserve it or not, but I hope and pray that God will send me a special blessing today. I am asking that I can be in your audience before your season ends. I am one of your biggest fans of milllions people that truly love you. If you can dig deep in your heart and send me a ticket, I would be forever so grateful. Thank you, so much for taking out the time of your busy schedule to read my comment. Thank you again and have a bless day, Tara Taylor

  18. Hey Oprah, I hope you are having a great day.
    Thanks angie

  19. Suzanne Blank says:

    My husband, eight children (age 23 to 9) and I, and my 81 y.o. mother want to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic this summer. We would love to appear on Oprah, perhaps as a human interest story or one on advocate global missions. It might be worth a try.

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