24 Was More Than a Show

The Fox Television series 24 ends an eight-year run tonight and like I have for the past eight years on Monday nights, I will be watching on the edge of my seat, anxious to see how my favorite television show concludes its historic run. Will Jack Bauer expose the Russian cover up in time? Will the peace treaty between the IRK and the western world be signed? And, will Jack live to fight on in a potential film version?

All of those questions are sure to be answered in the final two hours of day eight of this series that has spanned the course of only eight days in time since its debut in the fall of 2001. The novel 24-hour one day episodic show was a television first and will probably never be duplicated.

As we say goodbye to this series it is noteworthy to reflect on how this show took chances throughout its run. From exploding nukes on U.S. soil, the election of an African-American President, David Palmer played by Dennis Haysbert, a woman President Allison Taylor played by Cherry Jones in the current season, to the debate over torture for the sake of fighting terrorism, 24 has been at the forefront of the most dangerous threats facing this nation since 9/11, and it’s all been fictional.

Yet, from a real-life scenario, not only has 24 reflected the dangerous era in which we live but has served as example of how communications has evolved over the past eight years.

Cell phones, satellite feeds, video conferencing, etc, have all been used by the CTU agents and their enemies. In the end, it’s usually been old fashioned brute force and the bullets from an automatic weapon fired by Jack Bauer that saves the day.

In one of the greatest integrations of a brand into a television show, CISCO has showcased its state-of-the- art communications technologies throughout the run of the series. Whether it’s a teleconference between the president and advisors or the monitoring of live feeds coming in from security cameras, the CISCO brand has been front and center at the CTU command post and White House.

So as 24 the series comes to an end, what, if any lessons can a communicator draw from this historic show? As one who has never missed an episode, I thought I would take a stab at jotting down a few.

Follow Your Gut – Despite the use of the latest gadgetry, satellites and video surveillance, Jack Bauer has succeeded by relying on instinct. Mass pitches don’t work. By strategically seeking out the right media outlet for a targeted pitch, we open ourselves up for the greatest chance of success. Even then, we have to play a hunch sometimes and go on what our gut says, not what some Cision media list tells us to do.

 It’s Okay to Break the Rules – I’m not advocating doing anything against orders like Jack has or going against what the client has outlined as their goals and objectives, but there are times when the initial plan has to be thrown out the window. Communicators that can adapt to adverse situations realize when strategy has to be altered and tactics improvised on the fly, are ones that can save the day for a communications program.

Loyalty matters – Jack Bauer has relied on his relationships with such characters as Chloe O’Brien, Bill Buchanan, President Palmer and Renee Walker to have his back. Which team members are our most trusted confidants and who do we want to go to war with?

Don’t be Afraid to Take Chances – It’s easy to go after the low-hanging fruit on your media target list. However, why rule out the big hit with a 60 Minutes, Wall Street Journal or other major media outlet. Maybe you don’t have the contact or relationship, but if you believe in your subject and feel it can play to that audience, then you owe it to yourself and client, team, etc. to give it a shot. Lives are not at stake. It’s just another pitch.
Television is Not Real Life – Sure, it’s been exciting watching Jack Bauer stop terrorists, overcoming moles in security, bringing down Presidents and killing countless opponents along the way. However, Jack Bauer is a fictional, comic-book like character. As communicators, we are real life individuals, blessed with the skills at our disposal. It’s how we use our talents that really matter for those entrusting their programs to us. We cannot rely on a scriptwriter to save the day. Like Jack Bauer, we are often alone and have to fend for ourselves. How we use all of our skills can dictate how long of a run we have with our clients and in our positions.

Tom Cosentino

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One Response to “24 Was More Than a Show”

  1. Love the correlations…on the money.

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