Top 27 Personal Branding Lessons from Oprah Winfrey

By Lauren | Insight

Dec 03

When the World's leading female personal brand speaks, she shares the most valuable lessons she has learned throughout her life to inspire others.

So let's look at her personal branding examples that can encourage you to live your brand like Oprah...

Here are the top 27 Personal Branding Lessons from Oprah Winfrey:

#1: Two days after Oprah Winfrey started kindergarten, she wrote to her teacher saying: "I don't think I belong here 'cause I know a lot of big words." The teacher agreed and she skipped to first grade.

The Lesson: Never let anything hold you back.

#2: When Oprah was recruited to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago, her major competitor in the time slot was Phil Donahue. Winfrey's open, warm-hearted personal style won her 100,000 more viewers than Donahue in just a few short months. She went from last place to first in the ratings.

The Lesson: Be yourself, engage and connect with your audience


#3: The Oprah Show grossed $125 million in the first year, of which Winfrey received $30 million. She took over ownership from ABC soon afterwards.

The lesson: Take control and ownership of your own destiny.

#4: Did you know that Oprah Winfrey's production company HARPO is Oprah spelled backwards?

The Lesson: Make your brand name meaningful.

#5: Oprah had a dream to run a marathon before she turned 40, so she did.

The Lesson: Set BHAG's (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), then work towards them until you achieve them.

#6: Oprah injected a "Book Club" into her show and it launched many unknown authors to become bestsellers.

The Lesson: What can you do to propel others and reinforce your brand as the expert at the same time?

#7: Drug cheat Lance Armstrong opened up to Oprah Winfrey and admitted his substance abuse. He opened up more than even Oprah expected.

The Lesson: Encourage others to share their story and become a trusted partner to help them move forward.

#8: Like many other celebrity brands, Oprah has had to deal with bad publicity and she has done so with honesty and openness.

The lesson: Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes. When it happens, be honest, tell the truth and get the media on your side.

#9: Oprah is the richest African American of the 20th century and also the greatest Black philanthropist in American history, having given away more than $51,000,000 for charitable programs.

The Lesson: Instead of the goal for greatness to be rich, work out what you want to do to make a difference in the world.

Instead of the goal for greatness to be rich, work out what you want to do to make a difference in the world.

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#10: The person who encouraged Oprah the most was her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee who motivated her to have the confidence to speak up at an early age.

The Lesson: Have great mentors who will support you to succeed.

#11: During filming of the PBS show African American Lives, Oprah had a DNA test and discovered she is 8% Native American.

The lesson: Understand your roots, know your DNA and embrace every part of what makes you and your personal brand unique.

#12: During a special episode of the Oprah Show she openly discussed her childhood sexual abuse suffered at the hands of male relatives and her mother's friends.

The Lesson: Being human and opening your soul to the world is vital for your personal brand. Be the authentic true you, sharing your joys, your sorrows and your journey with others.

#13: At just 17 years old, Oprah won a beauty pageant, she has always had an amazing presence and even through her issues with weight gain and loss, she has included her fans in her journey.

The Lesson: Be yourself, let your brilliance and your hardships show. be the real you and others will want to be part of your brand.

#14: Oprah dreamed of playing Sofia in Steven Spielberg's, The Colour Purple, but it was a hard road to get there. She was rejected at an early audition but eventually won the role and an Academy Award nomination, but the bigger lesson she learned was that of 'surrender'. Letting go of expectations and allowing the universe to deliver.

The Lesson: Let go, allow your magnificence to happen. Never give up, because eventually, you will get there.

#15: Speaking came naturally to Oprah, at 3 she presented the Easter story, honing this skill to become the host of the highest ranking talk show, named after her.

The Lesson: Use your natural gifts to follow your destiny, make them the essential core of your personal brand and they will serve you well.

#16: Oprah has stood by and supported fellow female talk show host Ellen on numerous occasions.

The Lesson: You can compete or you can collaborate, which makes you the more powerful personal brand?

#17: Oprah resisted calling herself a brand, insisting she was a person and worried that if she became a brand she would lose the connection with real people. That all changed when she heard her fans tell her how much she has helped them change their lives.

The Lesson: Be your own brand, it enables others to trust in you and to connect with exactly what you stand for and who you are.

#18: So why is Oprah returning to Australia? The last time she was here it was a mega trip with over 300 fans and 20 camera crews. This time she wants a more intimate opportunity to really experience the country and it's people. She loves the balance Australasians tend to have and their zest for living a good life.

The Lesson: As you build your personal brand, take time to simply enjoy the journey!

Be your own brand, it enables others to trust in you and to connect with exactly what you stand for and who you are.

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#19: Did you know that Oprah Winfrey taught the dynamics of leadership as a professor at Northwestern University from 1999 to 2000?

The Lesson: Your personal brand is based on what you share, not just on what you know. You can teach amazing things from your own experiences and knowledge.

#20: Possibly the most trivial post in the 27 Personal Branding Lessons from Oprah Winfrey, but there's something to learn from her hair too! You might make some silly mistakes over the years, but as long as you can look back and laugh, knowing you were doing the best you could is enough to know you are human.

The Lesson: Give yourself a break and laugh at yourself every now and then!

#21: Having struggled with her weight for many years and very public yo-yo dieting, many would think Oprah's recent investment into Weightwatchers is an unusual move. Given the brand is more about weight management than 'dieting' it's a smart move.

The Lesson: Worry less about what others think, and more about what's important to you.

#22: Oprah Winfrey most famously said "The reason I've been able to be so financially successful is my focus has never, ever for one minute been money." It’s possibly the best lesson you can learn from her Personal brand.

The Lesson: Money is the outcome of you helping others, your why is the reason you do it. Find your why and live your brand.

#23: One of the most well known quotes from Oprah Winfrey is about surrounding yourself with the right people. She said “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher”.

The Lesson: Don't let your personal brand be dragged down by others, partner with supportive people who believe in your brand almost more than you do!

#24: Oprah Winfrey credits her father for helping her choose the right life direction as he was more strict with her and set high expectations of her. She revealed that if she hadn't gone to live with him as a teenager, she may have gone down another, less positive path.

The Lesson: Use your natural gifts and talents to become the best you can be for the purpose of inspiring and helping others.

#25: Oprah has interviewed an amazing bevy of stars, the Michael Jackson episode became the 4th most watched event on American TV. But it's the regular people with extraordinary stories that have really made her personal brand so loved.

The Lesson: While you can grow your brand with celebrity endorsement to capture attention, being real and engaging with everyday people will capture hearts.

#26: She's been called ‘Amercia's Ultimate Brand' yet it's Oprah Winfrey's down to earth approach which has endeared her to so many.

The Lesson: Having self confidence and self belief is important to build a strong personal brand, but don't lose yourself in the process.

#27: A women in the Audience of the Oprah Winfrey Show once revealed she bought a pair of Oprah’s shoes in an auction and would stand in them to give herself confidence.

The Lesson: Even your shoes can inspire others.

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher”. Oprah Winfrey

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An Evening With Oprah was the name of her global tour and as expected, it was an event to remember for a lifetime. Just the fact that she told her story should inspire everyone to value their own.

After all, your story, no matter how insignificant you might think it is, could inspire someone who needs it most.

So make sure you tell your personal brand story wherever and whenever you can. You never know who’s listening.

We'd love to hear what you think about the Authentic Personal Branding of businesses and people in general. 
Make your comment below.


About the Author

Lauren Clemett is the Best Selling Author of the “SELLING YOU” series of practical guidebooks Know Me, Like Me & Trust Me. She is a personal branding specialist and award winning Neurobrander, helping service providers and consultants generate more income from their expertise. For more information Click Here.

  • Eddie says:

    This is good content! Insightful and helpful especially to young entrepreneurs who wish to establish brand. Thank you, Lauren!

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