What Estate Agents Can Learn From Oprah?

What Estate Agents Can Learn From Oprah?

What can estate agents learn from Oprah?

“I’m an estate agent, not a media celebrity. What can we learn from one who has never been a realtor/agent?”

Actually, quite a lot. More than you will ever learn from the Tom Ferry’s of this world. And, for free.

Take what I am going to tell you about her story and apply it to your brokerage.

Her story fascinates.  As it should.

Born in rural poverty in 1954 in Mississippi, her childhood was marred by more than poverty. Raped by her cousin and later by two other family members, Oprah became pregnant at 14 as a result of the abuse. She lost the child prematurely.  Despite the heartaches, she excelled at school, particularly in speech and drama.

Fast forward to 1984, she had taken over Chicago’s morning chat show and national syndication subsequently made it the #1 talk show in the USA, turning her into a millionaire at 32. Oprah Radio in 2006 added $55 million in a 3 year deal for a contractual requirement of 30 minutes a week, for 39 weeks of the year. Nice work, if you can get it!

As early as 1992, she and long-time partner, Stedman Graham, has discussed the idea of forming her own channel. That took until 2011, the year of her last show with CBS.

The new venture,  Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), was owned jointly by Oprah’s company (Harpo Studios) and Discovery inc. By 2012, she admitted to a nervous breakdown. The result of unexpectedly small audiences and subsequent losses.

“After 25 years of being #1, I had become accustomed to success. I didn’t expect failure.”

A change of management and strategy brought the situation around, to the extent that by 2013, the business was cash positive. Film roles followed including Oscar-nominated, The Color Purple, The Butler and Selma.  She co-authored five books. Her own web site, Oprah.com was a platform for a book club, her TV shows, a 2.4 million readership magazine and public charity.

To the extent that Oprah in 2014 was worth an estimated $2.9 billion, it’s success on an unprecedented scale.

The takeaway for estate agents/realtors?

There’s a few.

When talking about her securing the film rights to a story, she had this to say:

“The way I look at any opportunity is that if it’s for me, it will resolve itself. If not, then I bless someone else to be able to do it.” 

Never heard that in the cut-throat world of real estate, but it’s a philosophy that resonates.

The standout, for me though, was that she quit a hugely successful paid TV career that had made her a millionaire by 32, to control things herself.

Had she remained at CBS, it’s certain she would have enjoyed the fame and fortune, but at the expense of ultimate editorial control and a bigger slice of the pie. She would have built the success for her employer, instead of for herself.

She turned herself into the media – into the platform.  Through books, films, a book club, TV shows and philanthropy.

Not working for ‘The Man’, she became it.

Estate agents face that same challenge. Firstly in their servitude to the portals.

Giving away freely, the very information that should be their biggest asset.


Because that’s where they get their ‘leads’.

Don’t ask where those ‘leads’ would come from if an agency wasn’t on said portals.

They would come from precisely the same source as the audience that found Oprah.

T.V shows (now YouTube videos for agents).

Radio (now podcasts for agents).

Books (still books for agents)

A book club (still the same).

And through personal brand.

Attracting an audience to the platform that she owned and controlled, with her distinctive Personal Brand.

Don’t tell me any agent couldn’t produce and post a YouTube video.  Or a podcast. Or co-author a book.

A book club?  How easy is that?

Finding like-minded souls within your local community that like to read. Sharing information and thoughts, preferences and inspirations. Very little investment, other than your time. The consequence of which is:

You develop RELATIONSHIPS, aka ‘leads’.

The very thing that your agency needs.

Don’t build your home on rented land is a maxim, attributed to Jay Bear, that I have long embraced.

You don’t have any say in how your narrative is distributed when it’s on Facebook, or some other platform.

When you play on someone else’s channel, you play by their rules.

The change worked for Oprah.  It will work for your agency.

So when the Tom Ferry’s and Gary Keller’s of this world tell you to copy the strategies of those successful ‘millionaire’ agents, by prospecting, by doing more interruption marketing on Facebook, by diminishing your reputation, I tell you this:

Be more like Oprah.

Own the platform. Build an audience around your personal brand. Think for yourself.

Thanks, as always, for reading:)

If you have an questions, or need some free advice, simply get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.


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