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Line Of Duty: why are we still watching?

29 March 2021

Line Of Duty

Sir Elton John once remarked, at the height of his success, that he could release an album of himself ‘peeing into a tin bath’ and his fans would probably buy it. I feel pretty much the same about the comedian David Mitchell. Not the peeing in the tin bath bit, but the fact that I’m happy to indulge him in anything he is part of. Even if some of those excursions – ‘Upstart Crow’ for example – are a bit naff. My overall impression of his comic currency is a good one: he mostly makes make me laugh in whatever he appears so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt if some of it isn’t funny.

Think of it like making toast: if you grill 200 pieces of toast and 3 of them are inedible, my general perception of your toast-making ability is high. Most of the time you got it right. On the other hand, if you only ever produce 2 pieces of toast and one of them is burnt to a crisp, your ‘effective toast making ratio’ slips to 50%. I wouldn’t mark it down as one of your best attributes. To put it another way, if you only appear once on TV, you’ve got to get it right. When you’re on all the time, your duff bits are diluted by the exemplary performances.

So, if the current Line of Duty story appears derivative or less of a mystery, will that matter? Do we enjoy immersing ourselves in the world of Ted, Steve and Kate because we like the whole vibe? The answer’s probably yes. And I suggest it’s because we’ve seen a lot of them – and got used to their world – that encourages us to continually re-invest.

It’s a useful benchmark for any media or external communications engagements you may have. The one thing the audience perceive about your performance can often be the single impression they take away which is then extrapolated into a view about your reliability/reassurance/authority.

Your public exposure needs to be curated to deliver a consistent impression to your audience. So, think carefully about the point – or strategy – of your communication, the language you will use to convey it, and the way in which your personality will hinder or enhance the delivery.

If your audience don’t know you, your personal brand can often play a more important role than the words you are saying. Style trumps content. We’ve got to like you to stick with it. Once you’ve ingratiated yourself with an audience, they’ll probably come back for more. As Ted Hastings would say, if you can do that “now we’re sucking on diesel”.