PR Pros: Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

As I write, the last first-run Oprah Winfrey Show is on TV the Eastern Time Zone. During its remarkable run, the show has made enriched the lives of many people and many companies, including, as I saw first hand as a young news producer, TV stations that used Oprah as the ultimate 5:00 news lead-in.

The show has also befuddled many people and many companies, including, as a saw first hand as a more experienced news producer, TV stations that had to “climb Mt. Oprah” to compete in the evening news race when a competing station was “an Oprah station.”

But, in my years since leaving TV, the show is the stuff of nightmares for me, my colleagues and thousands of others in PR across the country. Simply put, other than clients who refuse to pay their bills, the worst clients are the ones who demand to appear “on Oprah.” Typically, those are the clients with the worst “stories,” the worst people skills and, in many cases, are the least likely to have ever seen the Oprah Winfrey Show, its female-centric bent and its lineup of celebrity guests.

Two years ago, my colleagues and I were talking to a potential client company owner who had developed an over-the-counter health care product he wanted to market nationally. When talking about goals and objectives, he declared that his top goal was “to take this product to Oprah’s couch.” I let him know that that doesn’t happen 99.99% of the time, even in successful business-to-consumer campaigns. But, he insisted that was his goal and he wanted to find the firm to make it happen. Yes, he did us a favor by waving that red flag. A Google search reveals – surprise- he never made it to the Harpo Studios in Chicago.

A runaway media brand success has caused countless PR firm/client headaches. The last Oprah episode is like a collective aspirin for this business.