As one of the most recognizable and influential women in the world, Oprah Winfrey appears to be everywhere. She is a self-employed philanthropist, a TV personality, an actress and a producer. She has her own highly successful talk show, magazine, radio channel and an up-and-coming television network. How does this one woman do it all while still maintaining a pristine image and a consistent level of success? Is it just an uncanny sense of great PR or is it something else?
I began thinking about this question when I saw an Entertainment Weekly headline reading, “Oprah promises to reveal family secrets.” Upon further Google research I discovered that today, Jan. 24, Oprah promised to announce on her talk show “something so shocking and groundbreaking about her family life that not even she was in on it until somewhat recently.” She was quoted as saying in a promo for the episode, “[I] was given some news that literally shook me to my core. This time, I’m the one being reunited. I was keeping a family secret for months, and on Monday you’re going to hear it straight from me.”
When I saw this I was somewhat shocked. Is this what needs to be done to continue obtaining large viewership? I will admit I am just as intrigued as anybody else at the prospect of getting to hear a celebrity’s family gossip, but I have to wonder at the ethical implications of this kind of PR.
I think it is her right to share or not share any information about her personal life, but when such information is used as a PR angle, that’s when I think you toe the ethical line.
Has Oprah used this tactic in the past? I feel like she has not. I think that a more positive type of PR can be achieved by proactive action and person-to-person audience communication instead of just giving away “family secrets.” She’s shown she can achieve this. Oprah should look to herself as an example and, instead of using cheap tricks for her talk show, use a more professional PR tactic.
In the sports and entertainment field it can be easy to use sensational news to garner attention for a client. However, there are different, more positive ways like fundraising and political activism that can potentially be just as successful.
Do you think it is a smart move using family secrets as an enticement for viewers? Do you think this calls into question any PR ethics?