BEHIND THE SCENES: Lessons in Dreaming Big, Perseverance, and the Power of Konnections Part II: Perseverance
Missed Part I? Click here.
In the years following my first “Unleash the Power Within” (UPW) Program with Tony Robbins in 1996, I met and grew close with Tony and his wife, Sage. I wasn’t his publicist, but our friendship and his authenticity made me believe that EVERYONE who did not know him should know who he is. That included The Oprah Winfrey Show.
This was not part of any PR strategy to make him a client. Tony never told me to do it, nor did he know it was on my list of things to accomplish from the 1996 UPW seminar. But as I blogged about before, I soon had a relationship with Oprah’s show to help make it happen.
Once I had booked clients on the show, I forged relationships, even several friendships, with the producers. But while K2 clients came and went, I never stopped pitching Tony. I would bring him up on calls. I’d send the staff all the cool Tony stuff I had. I was a fly on the wall whispering Tony at all their pitch meetings. I did everything to try and make it an idea they wanted to do. This is what you do as a PR person. This perseverance is what often works when you have an idea this good.
A bunch of Oprah’s people did become Tony “ambassadors.” They thought he was terrific and advocated for him. But that was not enough to shake the perception at the top that Tony Robbins was a “sales guy” (a perception often reinforced by the memories of Tony’s legendary infomercials). Oprah admits as much today. As she said in her Lifeclass the reason she finally went to UPW was to find out once and for all, “What is this with the Tony Robbins?”
Of course, I kind of sensed that she thought that even though no one ever said that was the case. But I kept trying. I sent more materials, kept bringing up his name. For ten years, his ambassadors and I tried. And tried.
And then in 2007, we got close – so close we started to talk about dates that might work. So close I moved to close the deal with the best “weapon” I had: Tony himself. This is the PR person’s “all in” as they say in poker.
As it happened, Tony was scheduled to be in Chicago for an event as part of Donald Trump’s Learning Annex Mega Event program. It would be nothing like Tony’s UPW Program but if it gave the right people at the show just a taste – an appetizer portion of what the real man is and does – I knew they would feel like I did: that we had to make this happen. I invited a bunch of the top people from the show to the event and flew to Chicago to escort them. For the first time, they saw what a great speaker, brilliant storyteller, and extraordinary communicator Tony is. They felt his true genius on stage: that everyone in the room feels like he is talking to them alone. Like Springsteen in a stadium, he has that gift.
After the show, Tony met with the producers at his hotel for a personal session. They connected and saw the authenticity I did. After 11 years, I’m finally getting there, I thought. Perseverance pays off. Perseverance cannot, however, make time.
Oprah’s producers offered dates and segment ideas for her and Tony. It took until 2009 to get dates to work for both of them, and then they ended up not working for either person’s schedules before the show ended its run. I had to surrender my original vision of a Tony Robbins-Oprah Winfrey connection. But in PR, like in life, just because you face reality doesn’t mean you need to give up the dream.
Continued in Part III: The Power of Konnections
Tony Robbins Appears on special expanded two-part Oprah’s Next Chapter on OWN Sunday, February 19.
For more information about Tony Robbins visit his site – www.tonyrobbins.com