Who wants to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show? Almost everyone. Ambitious authors, business professionals, and charity organizations have aspirations to be on the show that’s seen in 111 countries worldwide. But very few of them make it on to the show. And once they do their appearance can either be a bomb or a boon for their business.
A number of my clients have been on the show and had almost nil happen in terms of fame or fortune. Others, well, their products and books sold like hotcakes–that’s the dream isn’t it? How can you be like the successful clients of mine?
You have until 2011 to try, as Oprah has extended her contract with King World Productions until then. How do you begin? You don’t need a big name publicity house to get you on Oprah. But you do need a number of things.
1. Pitch a Hot Topic.
A hot topic is one that everybody is talking about–or should be. Many people ask me if they should keep sending the same idea in over and over again if they get no response. The answer is no. No response means you haven’t gotten the attention of any of the producers. You can either come up with another related idea, different angle, or give a topic you’ve proposed a slight twist.
2. Check out the Upcoming Shows and Regular Features on Oprah’s Website.
Go to her website and read what Oprah’s producers need now. Right there on the site they tell you about the shows they are planning–if they can get the right people for them. Think carefully about how to word your email to fit exactly what the producers need. You’d be surprised at how few people don’t know how to do this. If you can, you’ll stand out instantly from thousands of other people who ramble and just jot off a careless note. Take your time. Craft your idea thoughtfully.
Oprah’s producers encourage you to be succinct by limiting the number of characters you can send to 2000. This is about 150 words or two short paragraphs. One of my clients, a surgeon, who already had the attention, (and direct phone number), of one Oprah producer from another topic we pitched, saw that producers were looking to do a show on embarrassing medical problems. She immediately sent off a pitch showing how, as a doctor, she could help people from literally *dying of embarrassment.* Very smart.
3. Research the Message Boards.
You’ll find out the kind of stories Oprah’s audience want by checking out which stories are most popular on her site. If a topic really sticks then Oprah may do a variation of it in the future as she’s very responsive to her audiences needs. You don’t even need to read the stories. Just look at the total number of messages for each subject. Then craft a pitch geared toward the topic that has high interest.
4. Speak with a Golden Tongue.
Golden tongues are the ones who don’t wag much. They get to the point–an engaging one–quickly. A producer will verify that you can keep an audience’s attention by calling you. During this *audition* she’s testing to see if you can say something meaningful in 15 second soundbites. If you can’t you won’t be speaking on the Oprah Show.
When a producer thinks your idea is viable her next step is to see if you are *mediagenic* which means that you are a powerfully fascinating person–on camera. She will need to see a short video of you interacting in a talk show format (speaking in those 15 second soundbites) and will decide in about 30 seconds whether you’ll make the cut.
5. Forget Selling.
Of course you want to sell your book, product, service or cause, but producers don’t care about that. They only care that they have a great show. And that you don’t turn it into a commercial. When you’re interviewed you want to keep this motto in mind: How can I help you have a great show?
6. Tie into This Year’s Show Theme.
The main theme of the year is making your wildest dreams come true. Really it’s about how YOU can make somebody else’s dream come true. In other words who are you helping? Are you a person who has the power to facilitate growth in others? Have you done something extraordinary that has benefited an individual or huge group of people?
7. Are You a Do-Gooder?
Well, it’s not enough to be a do-gooder. Every non-profit and charity in the world thinks that they’re right for Oprah. And most of them are not. To be right for Oprah you must have a story that ties into a topic that’s something that Oprah cares about.
Right now she’s hot on saving the children of Africa. And she’s pretty single minded about it. She believes that we (the United States) must help support this third world if we are to survive ourselves. If you have a cause that serves children and has an impact on the world at large, then by all means pitch it. Or, if you have a cause that directly effects her audience (mostly women) then you must show why it’s relevant NOW.
8. Suggest a Celebrity Join You on the Show.
This year’s shows are more celebrity driven than previous years. You don’t need to know the celebrity personally, but must explain how they are connected to the show segment you’re proposing. For example, Michael J. Fox has Parkinsons’ disease. So if you’re pitching how Parkinsons is afflicting young women in epidemic proportions and propose a show with Fox, you are moving in the right direction.
9. Make it Visual.
We WATCH TV. We LISTEN to the radio. Since TV is driven by what we see, producers want exciting visuals that hold the audience’s interest. These props can be everything from B-roll (background footage) of you doing something riveting or surprising or items that illustrate your point. The more unusual the better. Show us something we haven’t seen before.
10. Hang in There.
You have until 2011 to come up with an idea that takes hold. Thinking creatively is one of the strongholds of longevity. Sure, you want to get on Oprah, but there are lots of other things that you can do to keep your career careening upward. Continue to watch the news, read magazines and newspapers, surf the Internet, visit Oprah’s site often and pay attention to what Oprah is doing on the show. If you’ve got your eyes open you’ll be able to pitch hot topic that will touch the hearts and minds of the people–and of Oprah soon enough. Good luck! And keep me posted.