Amanda Cleary Eastep

Business Authenticity: What a Klingon Taught this Renaissance Woman

By: Amanda Cleary Eastep | August 28, 2013 | 

Business Authenticity

By Amanda Eastep

I was a little miffed at the Klingon.

My five-year-old and I were sitting on a low wall in the village square of the Bristol Renaissance Faire many years ago, taking a respite from the summer sun.

I, a simple peasant woman, eyed the immense Klingon seated to our right.

My little girl, sandwiched between me and the 300-pound Star Trek humanoid warrior, attempted to enjoy her very Renaissance-y chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick as she cautiously glanced up at the scowling face of the alien, then expectantly up at me.

“Don’t worry, Sweetie,” I said, meeting the fierce woman’s glare over my child’s head, “she won’t eat you.” The Klingon growled, “How do you know?”

Now I don’t have anything against Klingons, but I didn’t appreciate her veiled threat to devour my offspring. Even worse was her lack of respect for the authenticity of the Renaissance period.

I had to wonder what in the Elizabethan world made this Trekkie feel welcomed at the annual Faire.

This year, on our 20+ annual visit, I pondered this afresh as I roamed the dusty streets of the village, sipping honey mead, and considering a sheepskin rug (for those cold Chicago winters). The past encounter of the third kind caused me to ask, “How does a company maintain its business authenticity while keeping a varied client base happy?”

Ye Olde Rules for Keeping It Real…and Keeping the People Happy

To thine own self be true. Business authenticity begins with people who have a clear vision and purpose for what they plan to accomplish through their business. Sure, we’re in business to make a profit, but what’s at the core of what we do? I have several reasons I freelance, but my central purpose is to use my writing to help others communicate their purpose.

The Ren Faire must maintain its authenticity on two levels: 1) Strolling through the re-imagined world of 16th century England, you can see that one purpose of the event is to recreate a time in history in order to honor its achievements (art and chivalry) and to teach through its mistakes (privies) and 2) Faire organizers must also stay true to the deeper mission. Fun.

To thine own customers be true. As much as a business has to know who it is at the core, it has to know its customers, too. Businesses can be very intentional in choosing the types of clients they want to work with, but some customer demographics form in a more organic way, influenced, for example, by outside factors such as popular trends in entertainment. Companies have to decide how to best serve customers they might not have anticipated while still pleasing their original customer base and staying true to themselves.

Throughout the many years I have attended, more fantasy elements have been incorporated, serving the growing interest generated by gaming, cosplaying, and blockbuster fantasy movies. The fans of these trends are numerous and have become part of a long-standing demographic that includes Renaissance history buffs and re-enactors, families who encourage their children to be dragon slayers, and people who just want an afternoon of bawdy comedy and the ability to wear an entire yard of beer around their necks.

But no matter their differences–angsty teenage wiccan or ale-swilling biker–nearly every attendee shares a common quest, the quest for fun. Huzzah! It’s the same purpose of Faire organizers who welcome “anyone who is willing to get into the spirit of things and play for a day.”

Create an authentic world. When we think about environment in relation to a business, our offices spaces might be the first things that come to mind. But what about companies that can’t afford the corkscrew slide between the first and second floor or the businesses that operate remotely? Well, environment also involves the experience we create for the customer, beginning with the navigability of our website to the quality of the final product we deliver. Another integral part of delivering an authentic experience for the customer is inviting the right employees along with you on the journey.

Every Faire participant plays their part–whether wench or noble knight–to add to the overall authenticity of the experience. Music, vocabulary, and dress for actors and Faire workers follow specific guidelines in keeping with the time period. But authentic–even for a Ren Faire–doesn’t have to mean the absence of modern plumbing.

To accomplish the ultimate mission of fun, the setting includes products, activities, modern conveniences (long live the Queen!) and food that aren’t in keeping with Elizabethan England (e.g. the aforementioned chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick). Authentic does have to mean making customers happy.

After another swig of mead, it all became clear to me. If we are true to ourselves and to our customers, we can create a world that serves our greater purpose while also meeting the needs of others, i.e. the customers–whether Renaissance noblewoman or Klingon–we were intentional in gaining, as well as the ones we didn’t quite expect to meet along the journey.

About Amanda Cleary Eastep

Amanda Cleary Eastep writes for businesses, for non-profits, and for the love of it. She is a blogger and freelance writer, and also serves an assistant director of public relations and communications at Trinity Christian College near Chicago. She teaches creative writing courses for teens; is an avid (sub)urban gardener; and plans one day to be working very remotely from a five-acre farm in some warmer state. Her husband is her best (and kindest) critic, and her kids say the greatest lesson she has taught them is, "We're not weird, we're just happy."

  • Maybe I should open with a joke…a knight, a Klingon and a PR writer walk into a bar…

    • Word Ninja AND?!??

      • ginidietrich I’m working on it…

        • ginidietrich OK I’ve got it! 
          So a knight, a Klingon and a PR writer walk into a bar. The knight says, “I’ve had it with my clients. Fairy princesses are all like, ‘save me from the dragon, save me from the tower, save me from my evil stepmother.’ I’m tired of their whining.”
          “I know what you mean,” said the PR writer. “My clients are all like, ‘make sure you publicly relate that we’re authentic, and that we’re edgy, and that we think outside of the box.’ I’m tired of all this spin.”
          A huge Klingon sitting a few stools down suddenly leaped up, emptied his pint of Guiness in one gulp, and bellowed, “tlhIngan maH! Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam!!!”
          Hilarious, right?

        • Word Ninja ginidietrich HAHAHAH YES!!!!!!

  • AmandaICleary

    biggreenpen Thanks for sharing, Paula. Stop by when you can, I’m telling jokes to myself…at least until lunch is over!

    • biggreenpen

      AmandaICleary I was desperately hunting for a renaissance-related reference but was drawing a blank. #BetterThanDrawingASword

  • Awesome, Amanda! You paint a clear picture and are such a gifted writer. When I think of your message, I am thinking of your profession as a communicator. The core of what you do does not change, the quality and delivery don’t either, the product may depending on who your audience is.  I think where we get into trouble is when we try to sell to everyone.  Such as if the Faire had a Klingon tent. This post ties so nicely with Jason’s from this morning about the customer experience. Loved it!

    • jolynndeal Thanks for reading and for the compliment, Jo Lynn. Yes, it was fun to see Jason’s post this morning, since I’m a Disney fan, too. I have to admit, I’ve only seen one Klingon at the Faire, but it does attract lots of interesting people. And, yes, who you are at the core shouldn’t change, since it really determines who you are as a business. My husband said he really can’t believe I was thinking about this whole thing as I was walking around the Faire. It was the mead that did it…

      • photo chris

        Word Ninja jolynndeal …”but it does attract lots of interesting people” um yes, the mead does that too I think!

  • JasonExodus

    susancellura Thanks for the RT, Susan!

  • I didn’t know anyone could write about Kiingons as eloquently as you did. Bravo! Also, a corkscrew slide between floor? Hilarious!
    Between Jason’s lessons from Disney and this from the Ren Faire, we have a complete – and ideal – customer experience. I smell an eBook!

    • ginidietrich Thanks, my mind makes bizarre connections. Cool to see Jason’s post yesterday on Disney, great thoughts.
      Ebook huh? Think I’m still smelling Faire turkey legs. 🙂

  • And another piece of the Word Ninja puzzle falls into place… 
    Love this, and live by it —> “We’re not weird, we’re just happy.” 
    My two thoughts: IMHO all online interaction is eventually headed towards virtual environments, so cosplay, renn., maker, and other communities are already tapped into the future, and creating authentic and lasting connections. But, it’s funny how marketers will still take a thousand shallow connections over one hundred amazing ones. Being true and having authentic connections with people never goes out of style. One of the things I love about the community here.

    • JoeCardillo Thanks, Joe, yes this is how I raise children. 
      True about the community here. I’ve limited my time online to the blogs, info, and connections I value most. That happened quickly here, which just speaks to the kind of people here. 
      An interesting thing I didn’t mention in regard to “virtual environments.” This particular Faire has something called RenQuest. It’s basically living gaming, an interactive experience visitors can experience on the fairgrounds. Haven’t tried that yet.

      • Word Ninja JoeCardillo Interesting – sounds geeky (and I dig it = )

        • JoeCardillo Completely. I haven’t decided between that and the pub crawl.

    • JoeCardillo Word Ninja Exactly. It is trite, but quality over quantity. 
      And YES to your family words!

  • I love the idea of creating an authentic world — especially when it comes to website design. That is often a first-impression moment for clients and it’s important to recognize what a huge opportunity it is to convey your message, goals and overall “world.” Creating the experience with the customer in mind. Great advice! 🙂

    • TaraGeissinger Thanks for the comment, Tara. As many of us know (me!), our websites can be one of the most challenging aspects of creating that experience for our clients. Some aspects come more naturally to us, for me the writing and personal interaction. That’s why it’s so important to have others on our team that can help us build out those parts of the client experience that we might not excel at creating. That reminds me that I need someone to work on a website for me…

  • Speaking of websites adding to a client experience…I really appreciate how welcoming jolynndeal’s myMarketing Cafe is! “…designed around a coffeehouse, because coffeehouses inspire great ideas.” Love it.

  • AmandaICleary

    Kato42 SpinSucks Thanks so much for sharing the post, Kate!

  • AmandaICleary

    garyoneil2 ginidietrich Gary, thank you for sharing the post!

    • garyoneil2

      AmandaICleary ginidietrich No problem Amanda :-]

  • AmandaICleary

    VoxOptima I appreciate the share!

  • Great post! I love the notion that sometimes we gain customers that we didn’t quite expect. There is so much to be learned from those outliers, I believe. Thanks for sharing!

    • RebeccaTodd Hi, thanks for stopping by and reading! While I was writing this post, I came upon a thesis about Ren faire demographics that explored how well organizers know their visitors and how they use that information when marketing. (I have to admit that I didn’t read much further after I saw the author’s Dedication to “Twiggles.”)

  • photo chris

    Um, how did I miss this? How? Klingon’s and ren fair and buisness strategy?  and BTW, I’d like my kids to be your kids new BFF’s! 
    Seriously, I think this is a great reminder of how to grow while staying central to yourself and core strategy. So long as you have your center, you’ll never be off balance and can keep spinning right along.

    • photo chris Hi! Glad you got a chance to read it. Posting just isn’t any fun without you guys here. 🙂 
      Sure my kids are way older than yours but we could have a play date. Ha!