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If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got".

10.18.10 -
Is that good enough for you?

Recently, I stumbled upon a blog created by a PR guru, Jack Horner, where he wrote an excellent piece about Oprah’s PR machine. CEOs and public relations professionals-myself included-can learn much from Oprah. And before she rides off into the Santa Barbara sunset, we should note them.

If I were producing a show, I would call these “Oprah’s Executive Do’s.”

Operate first in the best interest of others. It’s not about you. Process every decision by identifying the outcome that’s best for your key constituents. Work backward from there. When you uplift others, you will inevitably uplift yourself. Oprah didn’t start her book club to sell books. Think about it.

Put out a quality product. In 25 years, Oprah has made and produced only high-quality work. As a result, I fondly consider anything she-and her team-endorse. Uncompromising quality establishes long-term trust.

Look people in the eye when you speak. When Oprah speaks to a guest, she focuses on them. Doesn’t matter if it’s Cameron Diaz, Dr. Oz or … me. When Oprah is speaking to her audience, she’s making eye contact. And when Oprah is talking to viewers, she’s looking at the camera. It makes her words matter.

Fight for what’s right. When the beef industry tried to squelch Oprah on the subject of cattle rearing and mad cow, the 1998 lawsuit played out in an Amarillo courtroom. Oprah herself took the stand. It wasn’t about burgers; it was about the First Amendment. Go to the mat on principle.

Say sorry when you’re wrong. Oprah feted James Frey in 2006 for his nonfiction work, “A Million Little Pieces.” When the book was revealed as part-fiction, Oprah put Frey into a media headlock and bludgeoned him. Upon reflection, Oprah personally called Frey and apologized. Sorry and still Oprah.

Break your own rules when it’s important. Oprah had a policy against endorsing political candidates. Along came Barack Obama, and in 2007, Oprah gave her first political nod. For myriad reasons, Oprah thought this opportunity too important, the stakes too high. Know when to throw out your rule book.

Look your best. I smile in the checkout whenever I glimpse at the latest cover of “O Magazine.” Whatever age, weight or coiffure Oprah’s sporting that month, she rocks it. You may or may not have a fleet of stylists. Whatever the effort required, make it. Visual appearances speak volumes, no denying.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Picture Oprah sandwiched on a couch between feuding Jay Leno and David Letterman. Or Oprah next to Letterman at all for that matter. The 2010 CBS Super Bowl ad, using the three titans of television, reminds other execs that humor at your expense can be well played.

Be a good friend. Wherever you are, someone helped you get there by providing advice, comfort, support, whatever. I’d never heard of Gayle King, Dr. Phil or Nate Berkus, until Oprah generously acknowledged that her universe had more than one star. Helping others, hers burned even brighter.

Know when it’s time to go. From a business perspective, this is my personal favorite Oprah lesson. Leaders mustn’t linger. Despite passion for performance, executives all have an expiration date. Know yours. Well-timed departures give everyone a chance to grow again, including the boss.

Oprah’s rise was not meteoric, which implies fast and hot. Oprah’s accomplishments, rather, resulted from strategic planning and programs well executed over time. Oprah, her product and its delivery evolved mightily. Throughout, her command over all-things-Oprah never faltered. CEOs take note, the result stands for itself.

Like the rest of the world, I’ve watched Oprah run her business and her public life in an extraordinary way...What I do know that she is one of the greatest business leaders and communicators of my lifetime. And her conduct throughout has been intentional and exemplary. The very best to you, O.

Tracy Diina Communications provides PR and fundraising support for non-profits and small businesses who need big time results. We provide personal, mission driven attention to your organization, using our experience in issues development, communications and non-profit management. And remember…at Tracy Diina Communications, all work is totally catered to the individual client so once an organization's needs are fully fleshed out, we will determine what package we can create that will be the best fit for you!

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