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 (Forbes #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 Mirror 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.