The Oprah Winfrey Effect

Growing up I have been a loyal watcher to The Oprah Winfrey Show, although I was brought up an ocean away from the United States, to me, she was very inspirational. I wonder today why was that? I can assure you I am not alone Oprah is well-known across the middle east, my country Jordan in particular, most of us early millennials grew up watching her show.

Although she had a shift in strategy after launching her network ‘OWN’, where with the network there are a variety of shows hosted by others other than her sole show, she has launched the careers of many tv personalities such as Dr. Phil, Nathan Berkus, and Dr. Oz, but still her show on OWN, “Super Soul” does not fall far away from what Oprah has always offered to her audience, an in-depth search into one’s purpose in life and telling people stories and experiences.

Since her early start Oprah is her own brand, with her photos always on the cover of O magazine and through her book club she talks about the books that touched her the most, this endorsement is enough to increase the sales of these books.

O Magazine

So why would we want to seek wisdom and life improvement from Oprah?

The thing about Oprah’s rise as an influencer didn’t happen all of a sudden, it was gradual, the Oprah Show aired between 1986-2011, she went through growth and change, her philosophy grew while us watching, and this is the edge she has over other social media influencers today, she has been in the media business long enough to establish herself in the minds of people and further gain credibility and trust by discussing issues that touch them. She was able to position herself in our lives as a source of opinion, with the fast rate other social media influencers lose and gain digital social status Oprah does not have to worry much, her status is preserved as it took a long time in the making. Other reason for her success for being an influencer is because she adapted to the digital age, in his book “The Influencer Effect” Greg Jameson describes how when Oprah shared Amazon’s new Kindle eBook reader with her audience where she said “It’s absolutely my new favourite thing in the world”, this caused Amazon’s visits to increase 6%. Jameson continues by saying “Being endorsed by Oprah is so powerful that it became known as the Oprah effect”.

According to Ted Murphy professor of Social Science at the University of Boston and Dr. Ryan Schram a cultural anthropologist at the University of Sydney, in a co-authored paper titled “What is it worth? The value chasm between brand and influencers“, they called the influencer marketing that Oprah and other celebrities do as sponsored social which is “created by an influencer or publisher and distributed in their network organically to their followers”.

Oprah ‘s ability to embed herself into social issues in the U.S works effectively in the continuity of her brand, her latest well-crafted speech when receiving the Cecil B. de Mille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes demonstrates this best, when she spoke about women empowerment and told the stories of women who had been abused, shows Oprah as a storyteller and her ability to spread her social weight on important issues she choose to get involved in.

Anyone who wants to establish her or him-self in media can learn a lot from Oprah, first, persistence, don’t give up and leave this business early on, I find what contributed to Oprah’s status is her continuity to exist on the screen, being on television has gained her an advantage over social media influencers because these influencers have to continuously try to get their content noticed among the huge amount and social media figures out there in the digital sphere, with Oprah it’s different, the variety of her media offering covers a range of what we seek from media outlets, with a focus on self-improvement and spiritual growth, maintaining at the same time her name in the center of them all, we can see she has a tv show “Super Soul”, a Book Club, an entire network with a variety of shows. Second, being current and discussing issues that matter to the people, this diverges away from what media outlets often do in agenda setting by bringing to people what they want and feel is important to them instead of what’s important to their audience. Third, adapting to the digital age, she leveraged her celebrity like when she endorsed Kindle reader, the other effective strategy she did is making her content available online where although her tv show “The Oprah Show” ended in 2011 she shifted to make her presence available online, we continue to be able to watch her on YouTube.

The next challenge for Oprah is to be able to add new audience of millennials and Generation Z viewers, she and her team will have to make sure all episodes are available online, when The Oprah Show was being aired on tv audiences didn’t have a barrier in watching the entire episode or the season so better not to start now putting restrictions on the amount of episodes available on their YouTube channel this might affect her influence on international audiences who are not in the United Stated to watch a full episode on tv, when The Oprah Show was being aired our local tv station was able to buy the show ‘s episodes for us to watch, today this has changed.

Oprah will continue to have a faithful audience that she has gained their trust but the issue is adding new ones and this needs substantial effort and strategy.

At the end the true source I believe that made Oprah Winfrey The Oprah we all know today, is the person she chose to take along her journey, he is the one who held her hand when she walked to stage to accept her Cecil B. de Mille award and that’s “Stedman Graham”, so Ladies when you choose, choose well, that might make all the difference in your success.


Oprah Cecil B. de Mille Award

O Magazine Cover

Oprah’s Featured Image

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