Lessons for Leaders: Dancing with PR Star Patrice Tanaka in Her Book “Becoming Ginger Rogers”

December 13th, 2011

Be sure to RSVP for the commPRO.biz Holiday Party and Celebration of Ballroom Dancing, featuring Patrice Tanaka, co-chair, chief creative officer, whatcanbe Ambassador CRT/tanaka and co-hosts Fay Shapiro, publisher, commPro.biz and Todd Grossman, VP, Multivu™, a PR Newswire company.


This book review by Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce SVP,  first appeared on commPRO.biz and is reposted with permission. 

Patrice Tanaka: "Becoming Ginger Rogers"

First, let me say that I love biographies. People are fascinating and their stories rarely fail to compel and inspire me to think differently, try something new or just try to be an overall better person.

Patrice Tanaka’s book “Becoming Ginger Rogers…How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO” was, as advertised from the front cover, “inspiring.” And, for me, a page-turner because I’ve met Patrice personally, but also because she is a public relations pro telling her own story. In essence, whether your personal “style” is rumba, foxtrot, tango or the samba—you’ll really like this book. Reading this book IS the mirror-ball of communications—and it’s A WINNER!

Not only is Patrice co-chair, chief creative officer and whatcanbe ambassador at PR firm CRT/tanaka, but she is also is an artist of words. Throughout her career she told the story of her clients and organization so eloquently; this is no less true in her book. She turns her storytelling into a master class of “take care of you” for every professional. Within her book she wins and loses love, she struggles and succeeds in business and she follows her passion to develop new skills. Patrice teaches lessons of endurance and empowerment through life and specifically through dance. As she transforms her physical appearance and mental strength she learns and fills gaps of vulnerability with confidence, poise and glamorous gowns.

A few lessons I learned that you can apply to your daily life and career, as well:

  1. Be a leader. Be in tune with yourself and allow wonderful things to happen all around you. Patrice, while herself is a dominant leader, her strong lesson came from her taking cues from her strong partner and instills those same traits with her “whatcanbe” program at her agency.  
  2. Be a follower. My favorite lesson is from the mambo where Type-A Patrice let her partner lead. She didn’t rely on a routine, but allowed herself the freedom to live in that moment of the dance in the power of her knowledge to guide her and trust in her practice and experience.
  3. Love yourself. When times are tough, remember that unless you are strong and take care of yourself it’s hard to be strong for others.
  4. Love what you do. It will show. No matter what you’re doing: PR, marketing, dancing, knitting, accounting—love it while you’re doing it and you’ll find the best YOU. If you don’t love it, don’t worry, but don’t force something that doesn’t feel right. There’s a “Ginger Rogers” in you waiting to bloom.
  5. Follow your gut. Patrice suffered loss in her life, but you would NEVER know it. She commands an audience whether her feet or her mouth are telling the story. She is inspirational and truly in tune with her heart and her instincts.

This book is a tapestry of communication and life lessons and skills exemplified at the highest level. Each day we all dance our own mambo and after reading Patrice’s book you’ll be reminded to master the basics and the routine will follow. So many times in a world trying to be clever, the simple lessons are the most powerful.

I read this book in two days—just the pleasure and the mental vacation I needed. The real joy is that it’s a business book too. Patrice is an entrepreneur who has a keen business sense and places high value on people to make her organization thrive.

Through all of the stories and lessons the secret ingredient to this book is, in fact, Patrice. She transforms herself and reminds me to prioritize and be diverse. Communications plans are very much the same. You know the moves you have the technique and you need to trust your skills to execute and rely on cues for subtle adjustments as needed. When you meet her in person, don’t be fooled by Patrice’s tiny stature … her presence is large and in charge on the dance floor and on the PR scene.


About Patrice Tanaka: Patrice is Co-Chair, Chief Creative Officer and whatcanbe Ambassador at CRT/tanaka. She’s also author of “Becoming Ginger Rogers…How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO.” Her personal philosophy is that of “whatcanbe,” CRT/tanaka’s brand vision, cultural ethos and approach to business that involves helping the agency, its clients and the community-at-large to envision and manifest a bigger, brighter, better future.

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