BEHIND THE SCENES: Lessons in Dreaming Big, Perseverance, and the Power of Konnections Part III: The Power of Konnections
Missed Parts I & II? Click here.
Season 25 of Oprah was one of the happiest times of my life. Not because we finally got Weight Watchers on the show with Jennifer Hudson (though that was great – our 18th client on the show!). During Season 25, I had my baby. And that baby, who came into the world after so much trying and overcoming of odds, inspired me to look at everything differently. My dream of Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey together on her talk show might be dead. But a new chapter was being written all around me, just as it was for Oprah.
I had heard through my Konnections that Oprah was working on her new show that would become “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” Maybe this was an even better opportunity to Konnect them, I thought. As I sat at home on maternity leave, I fired off an email to Andrea Wishom who was working on the project (and who was also one of Tony’s ambassadors from my years of pitching him). I wondered if the new show was going to be about Oprah going out into the world and experiencing things rather than talking to people while sitting in a chair. She said yes. I suggested she experience an “Unleash the Power Within” (UPW) Program and possibly fire walk. She thought was a really cool idea.
She. Thought. It. Was. A. Really. Cool. Idea.
Of course, I said nothing to anyone yet. What does a line like that mean after 15 years? I wasn’t going to get my hopes up as I had many times before so I kept quiet (those that know me know how hard that is for me). Then, I got phone calls from the show asking questions – that means they’re really thinking about it, testing the waters and lining up the details before presenting it to Oprah. The next call was about figuring out exactly what the event entails and how it works. (UPW events are 12-hour days – a lot for any person but that’s the kind of commitment Tony delivers and wants from his attendees.) Oprah’s people wonder if she could just come in and out for a little bit….
PR people know that while pitching is hard, the hard part really begins at, “Yes” or in this case “Let’s See If We Can Make This Work.” Logistics are a bear, especially when the people involved are celebrities as big as Oprah and Tony. This has nothing to do with the people being pitched or doing the pitching. Everyone usually has the best interests of the show at heart – in this case both Tony’s and Oprah’s.
So when Oprah’s people stressed that she probably wouldn’t stay the whole time or necessarily fire walk, it wasn’t just about protecting Oprah. It was about making sure that Tony’s expectations were clear about what would happen with Oprah there. Oprah did not want to be disruptive. She is very sensitive to the needs of the people she works with. She did not want to diminish the experience for any one of the other 4200 attendees. Meanwhile, Tony felt the same way about Oprah: he wanted to make sure that her experience was right for her and that she could do her thing and not be disturbed by anyone else there so she felt comfortable and welcome. For his part, Tony also agreed to let her cameras go where no camera ever had for 35 years: backstage as he prepared and to interview him during “stretch breaks.”
And then all of a sudden we are a go. Holy crap. I held my breath. A PR person in any situation has to let go before the show begins and in those minutes between letting go and lights up, you know you have lost control. You have to trust all you did to help everyone prepare and konnect.
Finally, after 15 years, these kindred spirits had finally met. And I was there with them. I was there, laughing, crying, screaming with them.
The rest you can see when the show airs THIS Sunday, February 19 at 9pm EST on OWN but know this: Oprah never left that day. She went all-out in the UPW Program. She wrote in her journal. She participated. And, as you know, she fire walked. Like most people, she was reluctant at first. This is not a trick; those are really hot coals under your feet. But that’s what facing fear is all about: knowing that you can do anything in life. Fear drives results. And after Oprah conquered her fear, she cheered on her team and everyone else as they walked.
So what’s the lesson here? Just what I said: dream big, persevere, and keep those konnections to make things happen. Relationships are the single most extraordinary thing you can have in business. Big ideas and visions don’t ever happen right away. A year? Two? Ten? 15? The best things need time to percolate and you need to let them have that time even as you keep going after other things. But without the Konnections? Big ideas, no matter how good, go nowhere. Thus, everything I do is about creating those Konnections.
Yes, the Oprah Winfrey-Tony Robbins konnection was exceptional: the most profound I have ever made. Sheri Salata congratulated me. “Dreams come true, Heidi!” she said as she waked into the seminar with Oprah.
But as Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” What fun is there in giving up on the extra-ordinary and simply trying to accomplish the ordinary?