Global and corporate communications authority...
week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive
interview with the internationally regarded, highly
respected best-selling author and freelance
journalist, Patrice-Anne Rutledge.
Patrice has more than 20 book credits with
translations into eight languages. In addition, she
produced scores of articles appearing in major
international publications and she developed the
monthly columns, “Global Business Today,” and “eCommunicate.”
Her writings cover a variety of topics including
computing, technology, business, travel, food and
Patrice is a specialist in every aspect of global
and corporate communications, most recently managing
a global communications department for one of the
world’s largest software companies.
Q: Patrice, we thank you for taking the time to do
A: Thank you for asking me to participate, Stephen.
Q: You graduated from the University of California
with a degree in French Linguistics and you speak
six languages. How did you get into technology? Can
you detail your major challenges, their solutions
and significant milestones in your career?
A: Although I was interested in computers at school,
I never really considered a career in technology. My
initial career interests were in the areas of
writing, teaching, and foreign languages. But when I
accepted a communications position at a global
technology company, my career began to evolve. I had
several good mentors who helped me learn more about
technology – programming, networking, e-commerce,
and so forth. From that point, I became known for my
unique blend of communication and technical skills.
There were few people who could write well,
understand technology, and work effectively
in an international environment and that skill set
helped me develop a specialized career niche.
Q: How do language skills lead to international
A: I think that many people underestimate the
importance of really understanding their customers’
language and culture. You need to be able to
understand your audience and their needs in order to
market successfully to them. In many countries,
business is based on one-on-one relationships and
being able to conduct this relationship in your
customers’ own language can be rewarding both
personally and professionally. Even a small amount
of language knowledge can generate positive results.
There are a multitude of options available for
language-learning including CDs, DVDs, and
e-learning as well as the more traditional classroom
language training. Try it – it’s fun!
Q: Please share you top strategies for launching a
successful e-commerce site.
A: In spite of the dot-com demise, having a
successful e-commerce presence is essential in many
industries in order to maintain a competitive
Done right, an e-commerce site can generate
additional revenue as well as enhance brand name
awareness and recognition for your company. First,
you should synchronize your strategies to ensure
that your e-commerce operation complements your
brick-and-mortar business rather than competes with
it. Content is important too, including issues such
as personalization, community, and providing true
value to your customers. Also ensure that the
technical aspects of your site are sound and spend
time on developing a solid security and privacy
policy. Learning from others’ mistakes can help you
as well. Check out the competition and see what
they’re doing right – and wrong.
Q: What comments can you provide on web
A: Web personalization is a hot topic and one that’s
generating a lot of interest in today’s competitive
e-commerce market. It’s becoming increasingly
critical for e-commerce sites to build relationships
with their customers in order to develop repeat
business. To successfully develop an e-commerce site
that uses personalization to generate customer
loyalty, you need to approach the topic from several
angles. First, understand that your customers really
do want a personalized experience as long as it
isn’t intrusive. Remembering who they are as well as
their order history, account information, and
interests can create a positive experience. Forcing
them to register to even view your merchandise or
bombarding them with unsolicited offers will drive
them to your competitors. Second, offering valuable
content and a sense of community will make your site
sticky. If you sell camping gear and are the best
resource around for information on nationwide
camping destinations, you’ll develop a following
that can translate into more sales. Third, be sure
to take technical issues into consideration. The
best design and content in the world won’t help you
if your site is slow or doesn’t work properly.
Q: You have written on virtual trade missions—can
A: At one time I was the editor of a newsletter
called Global Business Technology Report, which
focused on the use of technology in international
business. One of the many articles I wrote was on
virtual trade missions and the ability to conduct
international trade online. Many people involved in
international business have no idea how vast a tool
the Internet really is. It offers a lot more than
just trade lead databases and market research. For
example, you can get free export training online,
watch live international news and conference
broadcasts, and yes, even attend a virtual trade
mission. This article, as well as articles related
to the three previous questions you asked, is
available in full on my Web site (www.patricerutledge.com).
Q: What ten lessons can you share with our audience
from your time as manager in global communications?
Do you have a few stories to tell?
A: I could probably take hours discussing ten
different lessons, so how about my favorite lesson?
As I mentioned before, I think that the role of
culture and language in determining international
business success is probably the most important
lesson I could share with anyone. Several years ago,
I was responsible for setting up a group of writers
in Latin America to document localized software
products in Spanish and Portuguese. My U.S.
associate and I didn’t speak Portuguese at the time
(although we did speak fluent Spanish) and our
counterparts in Brazil spoke only a few words of
English. In addition, the writers in Latin America
(all men) were a bit puzzled as to why a young woman
was in charge of the project. It could have been a
recipe for disaster, particularly in Brazil, but the
willingness on both sides to make efforts to
communicate really paid off. We started taking
Portuguese lessons; they started taking English
lessons. We all learned to better understand each
other’s culture and business practices, which were
very different. And in the end, the project was a
success. So my advice to anyone doing business
internationally is to make efforts to learn the
culture and language of your target country. You
don’t need to be an expert, although the more
expertise you have the better. Even the smallest
effort can help bridge the gap, and lead to a
mutually profitable business relationship.
Q: What are the major pitfalls in working with
PowerPoint? You must share some of your secrets…
A: I wouldn’t really say that PowerPoint has any
major pitfalls, but one thing to think about is that
there are both technical and creative aspects to
working with PowerPoint -- technical meaning how to
use the software itself and creative meaning how to
apply design and delivery principles to your
presentation. You can be an expert at knowing all
the cool new features of PowerPoint and still not
make a successful presentation if your slides are
unattractive and your delivery is tentative or
Q: Why write the book—Special Edition Using
Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003? Can you provide
tips and highlights?
A: Our goal for writing Special Edition Using
Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 was to approach
PowerPoint from all the angles mentioned in your
previous question. One of my co-authors on this book
is a presentation skills expert who wrote an entire
section that’s devoted to the delivery aspects of
PowerPoint. I think this section really adds a lot
of value to the book.
Q: You have spent considerable time becoming a
recognized expert in PowerPoint. Why PowerPoint?
A: I didn’t really set out to become a PowerPoint
expert, but rather became one over the natural
course of my career. I’ve developed many, many
PowerPoint presentations and learned quite a few
tips and tricks along the way. From there, I started
writing about PowerPoint, including three books on
Q: Describe the evolution of PowerPoint from 2000 to
2003. What new features were added? Why would
businesses want to upgrade to 2003?
A: Although PowerPoint 2000 was already a stable
product, it’s continued to evolve and add cool new
features each release. In 2002, we saw the
introduction of task panes, more slide layouts,
enhanced animation, speech and handwriting
recognition, and new reviewing and collaboration
functionality. In 2003, Microsoft added smart tags,
an updated viewer, the ability to create CDs of your
PowerPoint presentations, integration with Windows
Media Player, collaborative authoring functionality,
and access to Word’s thesaurus, among many other
enhancements. Other Office 2003 features that should
be of interest include XML support, numerous
enhancements to Outlook, increased security and
privacy features, and information rights management
Q: Which features do you like best in 2003?
A: Package to CD is probably the most exciting new
feature, enabling you to create CDs of your
PowerPoint presentations, complete with the required
fonts and all linked files. It also includes the
new, improved PowerPoint Viewer on the CD.
Q: Tell us more about those special capabilities
that give PowerPoint its power but are often
overlooked or rarely used.
A: I’d advise PowerPoint users to check out the
Microsoft Producer and Presentation Broadcast
add-ins, which are available as downloads from the
Microsoft Web site. Many people aren’t even aware
that they exist because they aren’t part of the
actual product, but they can be very useful tools
and best of all, they’re free. With Producer, you
can add streaming media technology to traditional
PowerPoint slides to create a professional,
rich-media presentation. Presentation Broadcast
enables you to synchronize audio and video delivery.
Q: Share a few real-world problems that can be
easily solved with PowerPoint.
A: Today’s business users frequently face the
challenge of needing to present to a geographically
disperse workforce. Using features like live and
recorded broadcasts, online meetings, and Microsoft
Producer, you can successfully deliver presentations
to audiences around the globe, both real-time and
Q: What’s unique about your most recent book?
A: Again, I feel the most unique aspect of this book
is that it covers PowerPoint from multiple
perspectives – how to use the software plus how to
design and deliver state-of-the-art presentations.
The accompanying CD is a nice addition as well, and
includes a variety of useful Office add-ins. I’ve
also created a companion Web site for this book that
offers lots of links, tips, and resources for the
PowerPoint power user (www.patricerutledge.com/powerpointpage.html).
Q: What other books and articles are you planning?
A: I’m currently working on two books not related to
technology, which will be released next year. Then
I’m back to technology books again. At this point,
it looks like my next technology book will focus on
either Flash or Photoshop.
Q: You choose the specifics however can you provide
additional essential tips from your many articles
A: Hmm -- that’s a difficult one. I think two of the
main themes of many of my recent articles would be
“get local to go global” and “personalize your
customer’s experience to gain the competitive edge.”
Q: Where is it all going, predict the trends two and
five years into the future?
A: Technology is constantly evolving, but I believe
some of the trends we’ll continue to hear about in
the next few years will be portals technology,
variations on customer relationship management, and
Q: Can you provide your list of the ten most
important issues facing corporations and IT
professionals today? How can these issues be
A: Here’s my list, in no particular order:
offshoring, aligning IT with core business values,
remaining effective in spite of budget and staff
reductions, motivating and mentoring technology
workers, dealing with increasingly complex security
issues, improving quality, maintaining customer
satisfaction with fewer resources, proactively
recognizing and capitalizing on shifts in
technology, globalization, and resolving the
problems of spam and identity theft. In terms of how
to resolve these complex issues, I think that could
actually be a great topic for an entire book!
Q: Which ten resources do you find the most useful?
A: Since I spend so much time researching on the
Internet, I’ll cover the Web resources that I use
most frequently: Google (www.google.com),
and Yahoo (www.yahoo.com).
From a personal perspective, my favorite sites
include Food Network (www.foodtv.com),
the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com),
and Expedia (www.expedia.com).
Q: Why do
you do what you do?
wanted to write since I was a young child. What’s
evolved over time is what I write about.
admirable, your pro bono work for children and
environmental charities—please provide more details?
your professional skills – whatever they are – to
benefit a cause that you believe in can provide a
great sense of satisfaction. I first volunteered my
communication skills several years ago, by offering
to handle publicity and event coordination for a
charity walkathon. Since then I’ve been involved
with several organization and have done everything
from designing Web sites to creating grant proposals
to designing a fundraising cookbook.
interests are so diverse: travel, films, music,
gourmet cooking, and yoga. What are the attractions?
A: As much
as I enjoy computers, it’s great to do things in my
down-time that are totally unrelated to technology.
I think the time away gives me better perspective
and reduces stress – my other interests are a lot of
fun as well!
Q: If you
were doing this interview, what three questions
would you ask of someone in your position and what
would be your answers?
A: Well, let me tell you about
the questions that I receive most frequently from
readers. The first one is: how can I get started
writing computer books? The quick answer to this is
to develop experience both in writing and in
technology. The main thing to remember is that
writing computer books is very different from other
forms of technical writing where you have a variety
of subject matter experts to guide you. When you
write a computer book, you are the expert and
you need to be sure that you’re prepared for the
commitment in both time and knowledge. Another
question that I’ve been hearing a lot more lately is
this: is it still worthwhile to pursue a career in
technology considering the changes in the industry?
My answer is that if you truly love technology and
feel it’s where you belong, then go for it. On the
other hand, if you’re looking at a technology
-related job just because you think it might pay
well or because a particular field is currently hot,
then you should take some time to determine what
you’re really passionate about and pursue it.
Q: With your remarkable career, it was truly a
pleasure interviewing you. Thank you!
A: Thank you!