Oprah – a PR dream?

One celebrity who is possibly a public relations dream client in managing to generate positive headlines globally is Oprah Winfrey.  Opening her South African School, she neatly addresses questions about why she hasn’t opened the school in America – and counters some criticism that the school is too opulent. 

With a net worth of $1 billion ( #9 most powerful woman in the world), she can easily afford the $40 million investment in the school and takes a clear position on the value of direct action on an issue she cares about.  There is no obvious criticism (yet) of the party of hundreds of showbiz pals at the opening of the school – and maybe some of them will be influenced or at least learn something about Africa.    Each was asked to sign and donate a book to the school’s library, which is a nice touch.

Media coverage for Oprah contrasts with the furore that followed Madonna’s adoption and plans for an orphanage in Malawi – even today, papers such as the  are negative: “The dad of Madonna’s adopted tot has begged the pop star to let him know how the child is doing.”

Is this a matter of reputation?  Does Oprah have consistent values that Madonna doesn’t?  Is Oprah’s management of the media better?  Is Oprah’s position as a media tycoon herself a factor (interesting that Madonna appeared on Oprah’s show to respond to media criticism)? 

It is rare to see universally positive media coverage given to celebrities – but initial monitoring seems to indicate that if anyone can pull off a PR dream it is Oprah. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “Oprah – a PR dream?”

  1. It shows a human, caring side, this could be the year of the philanthorpist, an extension of CSR for celebs. I would do the same if I had her money, you can only spend so much of it on clothes and holidays, the best thing a wealthy person can do is help improve the lives of others by sharing his/her good fortune.

  2. I agree that generosity is a trait everyone should reflect – it is interesting that what Oprah and other celebs do with their money in regard to good causes is criticised by some commentators (emerging in the US) more than their ridiculous consumerist spending.

    We’ve become a little cynical, however, about celebs and corporate social responsibility, believing they want to be seen to do good rather than being good. Should individuals and organisations be less public in their philanthropy – or is recognition of their largesse now vital?

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