The Oprah Effect
Relevant emotional content, comfortable companionship, a genuine spirit of giving, these all appear to be words of little significance; however, they’re just a few of the many characteristics that make up the dynamic personality of Oprah Winfrey. After watching the spectacular finale of 25 years of her show, I was compelled to look deeper into what makes Oprah such a captivating figure. Considering Oprah’s humble beginnings as a radio broadcaster, there are some interesting parallels for on air radio personalities to contemplate.
Emotion- joy, pain, anger, sadness, amazement (the list can go on and on), Oprah has a unique ability to tap into so many intense emotions. Even if you were far removed from the show, perhaps you’ve only seen it a few times in life, you can probably still recall an occasion where you were drawn into the show with one of those aforementioned emotions. She could take any relevant topic/content, find a way to capture an emotion and leave an impact an her talk show audience. A few months ago the city of Memphis was threatened by massive flooding, particularly near the Mississippi River, I decided to take a page from Oprah’s playbook. I drove downtown near the river just to take in the seriousness of the situation and was blown away to see many famous streets and landmarks submerged. My initial thoughts were that our city’s precious Riverside Drive and Tom Lee Park (home to many local concerts) was completely under several feet of water. I had several friends that lived nearby, who were forced to flee their homes, totally unaware when they’d be able to return or if all of their belongings would be in one piece. I took that experience to the radio waves with that same sentiment and created a great moment in my on-air career. Social media was abuzz with photos that I captured of the flooding and calls started coming into the studio from people looking for relief aid, which took my “music-intensive” show into a totally different direction. Oprah would’ve been proud.
Comfort- It was something about that couch on Oprah’s daytime show that oozed “sit right next to me and talk”. Even something as simple as Oprah’s companionship can be analyzed under a microscope.Its always been said that the mark of an excellent communicator is someone who can listen more than they speak and that’s exactly what Oprah did. Everyone from Presidents, celebrities, and ordinary people have shared their story with the world on Oprah’s show. They felt connected to her and we as viewers felt that same connection. In comparison look at a program like “O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly, although it’s in a different realm from Oprah’s routine, you can still observe the level of comfort the two provide their guest. Typically when an interviewee comes on O’Reilly’s show it isn’t long before they start to get defensive, while they aggressively fight to get their point across before their time is up. Both TV host are proven superb at capturing emotions, but it’s obvious Oprah pours more attention into her guest allowing them to feel at ease from the words “lights, camera, action”. This is something that I feel is achieve with time, consistently, and discipline.
Giving- Sure would been nice to be apart of a TV show audience and find money underneath your seat! College scholarship money sounds great too! The zinger is that Oprah’s spirit of giving plays into both emotion and adds an additional layer of comfort with her fans. When you put together a promotion or giveaway of any kind you need to have a target and a payoff. This takes skill, planning, and in most cases money (which isn’t a problem in Oprah’s world). A specific example from her show is when she gathered a group of under privileged Black-male youth with no resources to go to college and empowered them with a free scholarship to Moorehouse College. A super compelling story with an extraordinary payoff. Over the years you can probably think of countless stories of your own where Oprah gave freely to her audience, the less fortunate, or even to celebrities and politicians and it pulled your heart strings. Surely they’ve all been genuine acts of kindness, but most importantly they were always gifts that mattered most and guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Oprah, just one of the many “fascinators” that fascinate me..Observe larger than life figures, break down their personalities, and you’ll be amazed at what you find.