The Power of PR, Oprah Style

October 3rd, 2005 by Bob Bly

On September 22, 2005, Oprah Winfrey announced that her TV book club?s next pick would be ?A Million Little Pieces? by James Frey.

According to an article in BusinessWeek (10/10/05, p. 46), the book sold 85,000 copies within 4 days of Oprah?s announcement ? making it an instant best-seller. Bookstores ordered an additional 650,000 copies with the ?Oprah?s Book Club? seal on the cover.

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12 responses about “The Power of PR, Oprah Style”

  1. Ardath Albee said:

    Bob,

    I never have figured this out. Just because Oprah likes something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a book I’m going to like. Or anyone else, for that matter. But, it is an illustration of the power of WOM. So, my challenge to you is what are some of the business equivalents to that? Who can pull that power with technology or with a consulting methodology or with a toaster? And, leaving Oprah alone, because, well, she’s a tipping point all her own, what would they have to have to have that much influence?

  2. Bob McCarthy said:

    Yes, indeed, the power of PR.

    And three reasons why:
    1. The numbers are enormous. Oprah’s show reaches how many millions?
    2. Third party endorsements work. It’s always better to have someone else say something nice about you.
    3. People love Oprah and will follow her lead. She is the ultimate endorser.

    But before we get too excited, let’s think about all those books that didn’t get endorsed by Oprah. I’m sure there was no shortage of effort on the part of publishers to push their books. But PR is kind of a crap shoot. You do what you can and hope for the best.

    Bob McCarthy
    The Direct Response Coach
    McCarthy & King Marketing, Inc.

  3. Pam Gitta said:

    On the “what would they have to have” question…I’d say the main thing they have to have, is the public’s trust. Oprah has been around for a number of years, and she’s had a lot of truth told on her show. She’s told a few truths herself–some of them hard stories to speak. She has worked hard to gain the public’s trust (something that does take time), and near as I can tell, she’s succeeded.

    The books she chooses aren’t lightweight, so that adds to people’s willingness to trust her opinions (she isn’t some airhead recommending airhead books). When she recommends a book, people don’t stop to read the blurb or what the critics said about it. Oprah’s seal of approval is all they need, because they trust her.

    Now that I think about it, it’s tough to come up with a company that has done that. Until recently, I might have said the NYT… but right now, I’m coming up with bupkus.

  4. Scott Thorne said:

    Non-profits come to mind such as the Red Cross, American Heart Association, March of Dimes. Another reason that Oprah’s recommendations are so strong is that she has no percieved financial interest in the book. If it ever came out that she was getting paid a fee for selecting the book, you’d see a definite drop in sales.

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  10. ProCopywritingTactics said:

    Oprah certainly has clout! This woman has the power to make or break an industry.

    But you know, just because Oprah liked something doesn’t mean that you will. I tried one of her book club suggestions a long time ago and I hated the book…..Just goes to show, each person has their own opinion.

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