Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s most successful and influential women. Her TV show is broadcast to 145 countries across the globe. Oprah’s Book Club has over 2 million online members and can make a book an instant bestseller. Oprah’s website averages 7.5 million unique visitors a month. Her satellite radio show draws millions more. And next fall Oprah launches her own TV network called OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). So it might be a surprise that Oprah works for me.
This is Susy Flory. I write creative nonfiction and I’m new to the CAN blog. I’ve authored four books and write for magazines and journals, as well. I’m looking forward to sharing some tips and tricks of the writing trade with you. These are ideas and tools that any writer, fiction or nonfiction, can use.
Whatever you think about Oprah’s personal life, beliefs, or motivations, there is no denying that she is an effective and influential communicator. She has her finger on the emotional pulse of millions of women (and men) across the world. Why not put her and her experienced, high paid staff, to work for you? Mining Oprah’s show, website, and magazine can prove a rich resource for inspiration for writing. Oprah spends a huge chunk of change on a staff whose job it is to research and find powerful stories to touch hearts. Here’s how to take advantage of this rich resource.
- Topics. What areas have Oprah and her staff identified that most appeal to women? If you take a look at her website, these are the main categories at the moment: spirit, health, relationships, fashion and beauty, books, food, entertainment. You can bet that these content areas draw the most website visitors, or they’d quickly be eliminated.
- Story Ideas. Take a look at the current stories covered on Oprah’s website. Some titles on the site today include “Top 10 Ways To Eat Right,” “The 30 Year-old Virgin,” and “Surviving Life’s Little Low Points.” What ideas and stories draw your eye? What can you borrow and adapt to write a new, unique magazine article or storyline in a novel? Can you imagine a CBA novel called “The 30 Year-Old Virgin?” I’d buy it.
- Tone. Anything produced by Oprah is personal. When you watch her TV show, you feel like she is talking directly to you. Her website, magazine, and radio show maintain that tone. Many women feel like Oprah is like a personal friend, so they trust her and her message. What about the tone of your writing? Is it personal, engaging, warm, friendly?
- Takeaway. Oprah is a master of creating practical, takeaway value for her readers and viewers. Recently she has been urging viewers to take action and make a difference. In a box on the front page of her website: “How Can I Help?” Ideas, linked to other areas of the website, include “How To Donate Almost Anything,” “Give Fitness Gear a Second Wind,” “The Real Reason To Give Back,” and “Four Questions To Ask Before You Volunteer.” Women are practical and want to take action. What can you ask or challenge your readers to do?
- Needs. Read through letters to the editor in O Magazine or scan through comments posted on Oprah’s website. What questions, concerns, and needs do you see? Remember, when women write to Oprah, they feel like they are writing to a friend and they are willing to share things close to their hearts. What needs can you write to? What can you do to help, inspire, and challenge these women?
Let’s give Oprah a little competition. Besides putting her and her staff to work for you, you can write books and articles that answer the needs and concerns of today’s women, and do an even better job than she can. Let’s make Oprah sweat!
Susy Flory is a writer, speaker, and journalist who inspires and challenges women to embrace a life of passion, boldness, and adventure. Her new book, Thunder Dog: A Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, co-authored with Michael Hingson, releases next summer from Thomas Nelson. You can find Susy at www.susyflory.com.