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What Oprah Can Teach Us about Content Marketing

When you think of Oprah, you think of a woman who turned a talk show into an empire. From a childhood rooted in poverty to the launch of her own production company, Oprah Winfrey managed to build the highest-rated talk show of its kind in history. While of course there has been controversy over Oprah’s style of emotional, “confessional” message delivery, she has received even more praise for her success as a talk show host, philanthropist, and benefactor.

Content marketers can learn a lot from someone like Oprah. It’s not easy to create a brand from nothing. After all, we’ve all acknowledged that content won’t do well just because it’s good. Think of content like a car. It may look great from the outside, but if there’s no engine, it’s not going anywhere. Oprah was able to build the car, then outfit it with an engine that made it go faster and farther than anyone thought possible.

So what can we learn about content marketing from all of Oprah’s successes and (occasional) failures?

Be Personal

One of the reasons that Oprah has been so successful is her ability to connect and empathize with her audience. She was smart to realize that people want to talk to someone they can connect with on an emotional level, who isn’t just pushing messages onto them with no real concern for who they reach. Let’s take a look at a few ways that Oprah personalizes her messages for her audience:

  • Use the power of storytelling. Oprah does this a lot, either by telling her own, personal stories or inviting others onto her show to share their own. Having a story can lend a real face to your brand. For businesses, this means customer testimonials and case studies. Think of it this way: if your brand was a talk show, who would you invite to vouch for you on stage?
  • Show off your culture. Consumers want to see that you’re human. Oprah has received a lot of praise from fans for being “real,” and while this may be easier when you’re a single person, marketers can emulate this too. If you have a company culture that you’re proud of, show it off. Be down-to-earth with your customers, and make an effort to let them see the real personality behind your brand.
  • Endorse others. You know how Oprah has her own book club? Or how she backs certain philanthropies and causes that she believes in? Putting your voice behind something that you support is a great way to gain credibility as a company. It makes a positive impression on consumers when they see you doing something that doesn’t directly benefit your brand, even if it’s just as simple as featuring other companies you admire in a blog post.

Consistency, Consistency

A few weeks ago, Oprah (or someone working for her) caused a bit of a stir when she endorsed the new Microsoft Surface tablet. It wasn’t the message itself that caused such a ruckus (“Gotta say love that SURFACE! Have bought 12 already for Christmas gifts. #FavoriteThings”), but the delivery. Right at the top of her message was a very telling, overlooked detail: “via Twitter for iPad.”

While some consumers didn’t let this phase them, others were confused by the mixed signals in her message. Does she really love the Surface? If so, why is she using an iPad to tell us about it? This incident can teach us a very significant lesson about marketing: while your marketing message is important, so is your delivery.

The most obvious takeaway from this is the importance of remaining consistent between your message and all the channels over which you distribute it. Consumers are easily confused if they see you flaunting conflicting messages from one ad to the next. Your display ads should contain the same marketing message as your landing pages, email campaigns, and any other marketing initiatives you’re running at the same time. If not, your credibility could be at stake.

These are just a few of the lessons that can be learned from Oprah Winfrey. Are there any others you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!