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Lessons to Be Learned from Susan Boyle’s Dream

Susan BoyleOn April 11, 2009 a video from the television show Britain’s Got Talent appeared on YouTube, and in a few short days its unlikely heroine had captivated the world. Since the video’s posting, more than 35 million people have watched 47-year-old Scottish villager Susan Boyle become an overnight sensation. With her beautiful, unaffected voice and equally unaffected personality, this humble out-of-work country girl who says she’s never even been kissed put her dream of becoming a professional singer on the line and with one perfectly chosen song – I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables – turned ridicule to reverence. Quite possibly, a new star has been born.

From a marketing perspective, what can we learn from this phenomenon?

The best PR stories are of great human interest.

Susan’s triumphant performance has touched the dreamer in everyone. In a world in which headlines are dominated by the powerful, rich, famous and beautiful, something as simple as a purely natural voice has trumped all the usual shallow self-indulgent celebrity. Find the true heart in a story and people will respond.

The medium is the message.

The internet has changed the shape of mass communications forever. If you don’t have a presence on the web, you don’t have a presence. Period.

It’s called show business for a reason.

Susan Boyle may be a genuinely unadulterated average Joanna whose only goal is to make her unique voice heard. But you can bet that the producers and publicists behind Britain’s Got Talent know exactly what kind of wunderkind they have in their midst, and they aren’t about to let that go unexploited. The star-making machinery is clearly in full swing. Witness the condescending set-up, backstage on-camera interviews, dramatic build-up to the stunning revelation of talent, and cleverly orchestrated cut-away reaction shots, all packaged in a slick goose-bump inducing video posted on YouTube (and no doubt made available for distribution to every major online and broadcast outlet in the world). Just a few days later a recording of Boyle singing Cry Me a River surfaces. Suddenly any thoughts of Susan being a one hit wonder are banished for good.

You couldn’t ask for a better combination of razzle and dazzle. Susan Boyle is a rare and appealing commodity, and Britain’s Got Talent has figured out exactly how to package and promote her.

You can’t beat word-of-mouth to sell your product or service.

Susan Boyle has become a household name because everyday people have spread the word through an exponentially increasing pyramid of emails, message boards, links, and blog posts. The internet is the new water cooler. Viral marketing is your ultimate grassroots reputation builder.

Spot the trends and ride the wave.

It’s no coincidence that this blog entry is about Susan Boyle. Why not capitalize on a news story that’s hot if you can connect to it in a meaningful way? Use related tips to promote yourself and your clients. If you can disseminate helpful information to a wider audience by hitching your wagon to a rising star, Rachel York as Fantinethen you’ve succeeded in utilizing available resources wisely. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just learn to ride what’s already spinning.


One of my clients, Rachel York, starred as Fantine in Les Misérables on Broadway. As a result, she is frequently asked to sing I Dreamed a Dream in concert. Well, just two days after Ms. Boyle put the song back at the top of the music charts, Rachel’s website started getting hits from people searching for “other people who have sung” the famous ballad. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to introduce Rachel’s version to an eager public, I quickly uploaded a video of her performing the song.

As the saying goes, timing is everything. If you seize the opportunity when it presents itself, you could gain maximum exposure with minimum investment.


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