Thursday, October 22, 2009
Oprah & Sarah's Sarah Power
Oprah and Sarah sitting down for a chat? Really? One an uber-famous talk-show host, black liberal Democrat. The other an instant media lighting rod, white conservative Republican. They have hardly anything in common (well,except for both having had famous feuds with David Letterman -- Oprah's was a few years back; Palin's was earlier this year. Won't they have fun at Dave's current troubles?).
Actually, it makes perfect sense -- and shows how smart each woman is in thinking outside of the box.
Over the last presidential election cycle, America met these two public women for the "first" time -- even though one already had a world-famous "brand" name. Still, even as the country learned much more about these women than it did before, the overall experience hasn't necessarily perfect for either women.
This year -- next month, to be exact -- both women hope their shared experience in 2008 can become a mutually rewarding business experience in 2009.
The 2008 presidential campaign saw Oprah Winfrey plunge into the world of partisan politics for the first time. It was something of a risk for her to endorse Barack Obama. She had become the most successful daytime talk show host -- and arguably the wealthiest female entertainer -- by attracting a loyal following of women interested in building their self-esteem.
However, Oprah scrupulously stayed away from explicitly political issues over her two-decade career. While she was vaguely liberal, she kept her personal politics under wraps. In 2000, she had both Al Gore and George W. Bush as guests (separate shows). That all changed two years ago. Oprah publicly announce that she was supporting Obama in spring of 2007 (the two Chicago residents had been friends for years). Even so, she generally stayed out of the political spotlight until December of that year when she made an unprecedented appearance on the Iowa campaign trail with Obama.
The other woman making a debut on the national political scene in the 2008 presidential cycle was the previously little-known governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. In office barely two years at the time, she became a political and cultural phenomenon when tapped by John McCain as his vice presidential running mate in August 2008. While becoming an instant hit at the GOP Convention in September 2008, as the campaign went on, she was the controversial figure -- beloved by most conservatives while scorned by liberals and much of the media. Notably, Oprah appeared not to want Palin on her show during the campaign.
Both women may have paid a price for their historic 2008 presidential campaign involvement: One year, after her initial Obama endorsement, Oprah Winfrey saw her ratings down. That hangover seems to have continued. As a result, she's kick-started her 24th season with big-name guest stars and taking the show on the road to places like New York's Central Park and a Texas state fair.
Palin, meanwhile, apparently found the intense media spotlight too much for either her, her family, or both: She resigned as governor, immediately began cashing in on a lucrative speaking career -- and signed a big book deal.
And now, more than a year after Palin's debut, she'll finally appear on Oprah's show, the week her "Going Rogue" hits the stands. It's a masterstroke for both women. explicitlys a ready made huge audience of (primarily) women. She'll be able to talk about balancing work, family -- and politics. Oprah will, arguably, get an even larger audience than normal; it will come from conservative-leaning women who either never watched her show -- or got turned off her when she came out explictly for Obama.
But while politics might create the backdrop for their chat, the fact is that this is strictly business. They are now savvy business women who see that both their brands (and respective book sales, ratings, bank accounts, etc) getting huge spikes in a mutual broadcast appearance.