desk with sign saying leadership

Do You Have an Accountability Issue or Another Problem?

"We have an accountability problem!" Craig* fumed as he paced around the office. I sat on the hard-backed metal chair, pad balanced on my knees, pen in hand, ready to take notes on the looming problem that had prompted Craig's call to me.

On the phone, he'd said his team lacked accountability. He wanted me to come in and teach his junior marketing managers a seminar on being accountable.

But how did he define accountability at the agency? And was it really an accountability problem or something else?

Read more

vase with flowers and diary on a table

Why Experience Counts: The Benefits of Hiring Older Workers

Experience counts in the business world. There are tremendous benefits of hiring older workers that many companies leave behind in their quest to be young and hip. If young, hip and millennial doesn't fit your brand, why go for it? Go for talent first in your quest to hire the best.

Read more

Walmart Thinks It Can Tell if You're Happy

Last night I read an article in Direct Marketing News which literally made me LOL (for those not familiar with online acronyms, that's laugh out loud - LOL for short).

Walmart is exploring installing facial recognition software to install in their stores to assess how happy their customers are with their shopping experience.

Are you laughing yet?

Because I am.

First of all, shopping at Walmart is never a happy experience. It's mostly neutral with a bit of stress and exhaustion thrown into the mix. I shop weekly at Walmart for groceries (don't just; it's one of only two choices in my tiny rural town). I feel as if I have walked several miles by the time I have found a cart without wonky wheels that spins me in circles, passed the endless center aisle displays of sugar and fat laden junk food, and reached my destination aisle.

Half the time, the shelves look as if a tornado has cruised through, and the other half of the time they've moved what I know should be in that aisle to somewhere else in the store and I spend an awful amount of time playing hide-and-seek with the laundry detergent or whatever it is that I want.

According to Inc., Walmart's facial recognition software will assess your happiness level as you search for the last non-crushed box of graham crackers and if it detects you aren't ecstatic will staff up accordingly.

As if lack of staff makes anyone unhappy at Walmart.

Listen, Walmart, if you really want to make customers happy and not creeped out that big brother is watching them with facial recognition software - which may or may not violate several rights to privacy I have, I'm not clear on that yet - let's get a few things straight.

There are stores people shop at for pleasure and stores people shop at for necessity. You fall into the latter category. Therefore, few people are going to grin from ear to ear when they look at, say, the crumpled blouses on the floor in the clothing aisle or the whirlwind of jumbled cans in the soup aisle.

The expression of unhappiness on my face may be caused by a thousand things outside of a store's control. I may have just had an argument with my spouse and stomped off to do the grocery shopping. I may have realized I am almost out of gas and have to stop for more if I want to make it home. My shoes may hurt because they're pinching my feet. Who knows? Who cares? Who made it your prerogative to assess my happiness, anyway?

There are four places where staffing matters in any given Walmart and you are already failing miserably in most of them. So fix these before buying happiness software, please:

  1. Registers. Thankfully, our Walmart in Farmville, Virginia, has some of the nicest cashiers around. But for goodness sake, OPEN MORE REGISTERS.
  2. Fabric counter. Anytime I've wanted to purchase fabric, it's an ordeal. I wait. And wait. And then a clueless person shows up who can't stop to cut my fabric because he or she is a manager or something. If you're going to have a fabric counter, have a button or something customers can press to call help over to cut their yards of felt or whatever.
  3. Online order pickup. Oh, what a nightmare. What an awful, time wasting, soul sucking nightmare. I order online. It ships to the store. I then wait at an empty counter for 15 - 20 minutes while employees run by on their way to jolly old breaktime and I grow gray and stooped and old waiting to pick up my water filter or whatever I ordered online. Then, someone does show up, and THEY CAN'T FIND THE THING IN THE BACKSTOCK. One time, they lost an archery target on us. Let that sink in. A freaking three foot by three foot archery target box was somehow hiding itself in the backstock area. Fix this, please.
  4. Stocking shelves. See above - my comment on shelves that look like a tornado breezed through them once, twice, or three times. Restock. Stock again. Then, check your stock. Because you can't sell what you don't have.


Do you know what these four areas have in common? Low tech, low touch solutions.

I'm all for high tech. I love high tech. I love technology in all of its wonderful forms. But the area where Walmart and many other 'big box' stores needs to improve is not in their use of technology but in their use of people or the current staff and resources they have on hand. Scanning my scowl won't make a difference.

Writer Jeanne Grunert


About the Author

Jeanne Grunert is the President of Seven Oaks Consulting, a company focused on making customers smile (but not through facial recognition). She helps marketing agencies, publishing companies, and technology businesses with client-centered marketing strategies and content marketing that helps them acquire, retain, and create loyal customers. Visit Seven Oaks Consulting or Jeanne's Amazon Author Page for her fiction and nonfiction books.





Grow Your Email List Fast


Email remains one of the most popular ways of reaching customers. Constant Contact, the email marketing company, states that for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you earn $38. The right list, strong copy, and a compelling call to action get results.

I've written a new article for ADP THRIVE on how to grow your email list quickly. It includes my tips for growing a strong, responsive email list. You can read the article here: How to Grow Your Email List.

Should Freelancers Express Their Opinions on Social Media?

This week, we've watched horrific events unfold across the nation. Hurricanes decimated Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. A gunman opened fire on concert goers in Las Vegas, killing 59 and wounding hundreds of people. It's more than anyone can bear. To be honest, some days, I don't watch or read the news.

I can't avoid the chatter on social media, however. Not only do I rely upon social media for my own promotional needs, but I am part of a freelance team managing social media for a large, global marketing agency. Our clients rely on us to publish great social media posts and to maintain constant awareness of what's trending. On any given day, I am checking into my social media accounts several times a day, liking, commenting, following, and sharing.

As anyone who follows social media will attest, there's no shortage of opinions. No, people aren't shy on social media! This week alone, I've read everything from conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas gunman (he wasn't a lone wolf, he was a secret Antifa member, he was a secret Al-Queda member, you name it) to so much vitriol and hatred against the president that I feel like I went swimming in a tar pit.

I have opinions. I consider my opinions well-formed, based on sound, intelligent reasoning, logical deduction, and a well-read mind. That said, I don't share them on social media.

Social media has been called an echo chamber and it is quite true. Few of us have friends with differing opinions; we rarely tolerate opinions contrary to our own.

Perhaps even more importantly for a freelancer such as myself, social media puts my opinions on display for all to see, including current and prospective clients. It's a known fact that companies screen potential employees' social media feeds during the recruiting process. So too do clients see my social media posts, which is why I stay within neutral topics.

I'm not saying that freelance writers, consultants, editors and others offering services hide their opinions. We all have opinions. I am saying to be very careful about how you express them on social media. Unless you want to limit your work options, it may be better to keep your opinions to yourself or express them among close friends. In person. The old-fashioned way.

5 Tips for Strong Writing


Flabby prose. Flat, uninteresting sentences. Trite, cliché-ridden advertising and marketing copy. We've all seen it. Heck, maybe we've even written it. I'm here to help you turn that fat-ridden body of words into a lean, mean, athletic machine. I'm here to help you turn flabby, 90-pound weakling words into buff Charles Atlas-fit writing fit for kings. These 5 tips will help you write well whether you are writing for print or web, school or work, fiction or nonfiction, but they are aimed at people writing business documents.

Five Tips for Strong Writing

  1. Write from the verbs: Verbs provide action. The stronger the verb, the more interesting the writing. A strong action verb immediately sets your prose apart because 90% of people writing blog posts, web copy and marketing copy do not know this trick. The passive voice prevails among academic papers, technology companies, and websites where a 'scholarly' tone is desired. Yet you can write in an active voice even when creating serious, scholarly works.
  2. Use for strong verbs: A corollary to writing from active verbs dictates writing from strong verbs. Strong verbs describe, inspire, and connect readers to an immediate mental picture. If you use strong verbs, you are less likely to reach for adverbs or adjectives to enhance the reader's mental picture because they already have a clear image in mind of what is happening.
  3. Shorten your sentences: I'm guilty of this, and it is something I have to work on, especially in my business writing. I love writing lengthy, complex sentences. Blame my earlier training in linguistics and literature, especially Victorian literature. I can string together independent and dependent clauses to rival the most purple-prose riddled Victorian text, but it's ineffective in business writing. Shorten, tighten, and shorten again when writing business copy.
  4. Start with your conclusion: Business writing begins with the end in mind. State the conclusion first, then back into it with supporting details. In school, triangles were used to help us imagine the structure of a paragraph; an upside-down triangle adequately represents strong business writing. Lead with the conclusion or desired action, then add your strongest supporting details and so on.
  5. Incorporate a personal tone: Too many business documents sound impersonal and robotic because somewhere, someone learned that to be 'personal' in a business document smacks of  ineptitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. A warm, professional and personal tone lends voice and credence to your documents. By personal, I don't mean relating your weekend plans or your breakfast choices. I do mean using contractions, simple phrases, and personal touches to enliven your documents.


Lastly, here are a few rules of thumb for business writing:

  • Spell check programs cannot catch everything. It offers suggestions, not hard and fast instructions, so proceed with caution.
  • Search online for the correct spelling of proper nouns, especially newfangled brand names which love to mash together two words with random capitalization to make it jazzy.
  • Avoid the Random Capitalization syndrome, or capitalizing words to make them appear important. It's distracting and annoying.
  • Use a consistent style for writing out numbers and dates. It often doesn't matter which style you use, as long as you keep it consistent. I prefer to spell out numbers zero through nine, and then write numerals beyond 10, but that's a personal preference. AP Style and Chicago Manual of Style are two commonly used style guides that can help you through the nitty-gritty of stylistic choices.


If you'd prefer to hire a professional writer, editor, and word wrangler, let's talk. Until then, may these tips act like vitamins to boost your weak muscles into strong, bone-crunching prose.




(C) 2018 by Jeanne Grunert, The Marketing Writer | Seven Oaks Consulting. I offer writing, editing, and marketing consulting services.





The New Yoast Content Feedback and the Red Pen of Death



Do you use the Yoast SEO WordPress plug in on your blog? If you do, then you've noticed a few changes lately. It still offers the same convenient traffic-light grading system for your content, showing you at a glance how well you've worked your keywords in for best optimization. The new system adds content feedback to the equation - and that's where Yoast gets a big fat D- grade.

Because the feedback reads like an especially dour nun took a big red pen to your blog post and is scolding you over your use of...good writing.

(I can say this because I survived 12 years of Catholic school and grew up with nuns in the family. And I loved them dearly and they were the most joyful, happy people I have ever met. The nuns who taught me in grade school? Not so joyful. But who would be surrounded by 30 kids every day?)

Yes, the new Yoast content feedback system leaves a lot to be desired.

It scolds you for using complex sentences.

It scolds you for writing more than two sentences to a paragraph.

In seems to want to dumb down blog posts to the least common denominator.

Now, I'm not knocking on Yoast. God knows that as a content marketing writer, I appreciate the ease and convenience of a plug-in. What disturbs me more is the idea that internet readers cannot absorb thoughtful, engaging, and well-written content.

Polysyllabic words, complex sentences with multiple clauses, and longer blog posts are all part of my content platform. They might be part of yours as well. The prevailing wisdom from the SEO gurus is that such content isn't read, and increases bounce rates because visitors arrive at your site and are immediately turned off by large text blogs.

I'm not so sure about that. I think it depends on your blog and on your readers. I don't visit political, religious or social commentary blogs for the Cheerios and Sippy Cup version. I want meat, potatoes, steak knives and beer. I want thoughtful content I can chew on in my head the rest of the day, essays that make me think deeply about subjects that I care about.

If I visit a DIY blog, or a home and garden blog, or a pet blog, I want something different. I want big, pretty pictures. I want personality. I want to see the project. I want clear directions. And yes, simple step by step content makes it easier to read.

Everything in content marketing depends on your audience. What does your audience want, need and desire? Then it is a matter of matching your offering in the best possible way to what your audience wants. This is Marketing 101.

The SEO Bot Gods may seek simple content, but if that's not what your audience wants, in the end it isn't worth dumbing down your blog for the search engines. You'll always succeed if your content speaks to the intended audience.

Tools like Yoast cannot differentiate and distinguish between a DIY blog and a deeply philosophical blog that explores current events. It tries to apply an identical rubric to all content. But content is not one-size-fits-all. Content must be personal in order to be meaningful.

My recommendation: Continue using Yoast, but if the tone of the content feedback bot gives you flashbacks to Sister Mary Invincta's 5th grade English class and the Red Pen of Creative Death, just ignore it. I do.




This Shocking Discovery Will Amaze You! Clickbait Headlines


Fell for it, didn't you? If you clicked on the link because of the article's headline, you fell for something called clickbait.


Clickbait is a pejorative term used to describe misleading headlines. It's used throughout the internet, so you've probably seen it before. You see a headline about a favorite celebrity, or television show, or even an issue you care deeply about. The headline promises something emotional - something that makes you curious, intrigued, upset, angry. You can't help but click on the link. Once you get to the article, however, the content doesn't pay off the headline. That "shocking" information is nothing more than the usual drivel spit up and served on a silver platter. The "surprising" fact is nothing more than the facts about the issue. And so on....

Why Clickbait Headlines Work

It's a truisim in journalism and marketing writing that the headline is the most important aspect of any article, blog post or document. Most writing teachers and marketing writers will tell you to spend the majority of your time working on your headlines because that is what gets people to respond, click, and then read the content. In other words, if your headline doesn't work well, no one will read the terrific content you've created.

Clickbait headlines work on the psychological principle of dissonance. Our minds cannot stand to be uncomfortable, and the curiosity inspired by the headline creates a gap between what we know and what we desire. This gap makes us feel uncomfortable. We are compelled to click the link to read the text even when we 'know' in our logical minds that the information is just the usual drivel, or that we're on deadline for a project and shouldn't be spending time reading Yahoo! News (King of the Clickbait headlines) (and yes, I fall prey to them all the time) (and no, I won't be late with your project. I promise!)

[Tweet "This shocking discovery will AMAZE you! Why clickbait headlines work. #marketingwriting #writing"]

These headlines are actually crafty little critters. They're used because they work. John Caples, one of the most famous advertising writers of the 20th century, offered 35 headline formulas that are still used today by marketing writers and other copywriters to create the best headlines they can for blog posts, articles, website copy and marketing documents. Clickbait stands in its own category, but it's worth looking at Caples' headline writing formulas and comparing them to common clickbait techniques. There's some overlap, although Caples is probably spinning in his grave at the comparison.

What Marketers Can Learn from Clickbait Headlines

There are several lessons we can learn from the purveyors of clickbait headlines. First, we know that they work. They do draw in the clicks. They don't provide lasting values, and they don't engender loyalty, two important qualities that any serious business should consider as part of their overall content marketing strategy. But they do follow the AIDA formula - attention, interest, desire, action.

And that's what we as marketers and marketing writers must remember at all times: AIDA. Without getting attention and generating interest, no one's going to click on your article. Inspiring desire and motivating customers to take action with an engaging headline complete the split-second decision that occurs in readers' brains as they scan their newsfeeds. Clickbait headlines get the job done in seconds.


Will I use clickbait headlines? Aside from this blog post, where the headline was actually part of the story, the answer is no. I hate feeling cheated when I click on one of those zippy headlines and they promise me "shocking" photos or news and all I get is an article. Sure, I clicked, and sure, you got the page view. But in the end, you didn't get ME - you didn't earn my loyalty. I won't bookmark your site, and I won't follow it on social media. Perhaps more importantly, I won't go there again, because now that you've played a trick on me, I'm wise to your trick.

And I hate tricks.

If you want to gain clicks in an ethical way, the secret remains in writing great headlines. That takes enormous skill and practice, something which a good marketing writer has. I've been a marketing writer for 20+ years. That's the kind of writer you need working on your projects, not someone who can catch a reader-fish on the end of a headline-hook.

To write terrific headlines:

  • Make it factual and true
  • Go for emotion - pique curiosity
  • Ask a question
  • Make a crazy promise (that you can actually keep)
  • Includes facts like numbers, names, specifics
  • Keep it not too short, not too long
  • Infuse it with keywords too!


It takes time and practice to actually write such headlines. If you'd like help with your marketing writing work, please contact me.

In the meantime...I hope this blog post shocked, inspired, surprised, amazed, and absolutely delighted you.

Jeanne for websiteMarketing writer Jeanne Grunert knows a thing or two about headline writing, marketing copy, and freelance writing. She's been a full time freelance writer since 2007 when she quit her position as a marketing director for a big global company to return to her roots as a freelance writer. With a background in both marketing and writing, Jeanne brings a unique perspective to all of her writing projects. For more information, please visit her company website, Seven Oaks Consulting | Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert.

It's Party Time! Blog Parties Explained

Have you ever seen the term "blog party?" A blog party may be a good way to gain traffic to your blog.

Photo credit: FidlerJan from


Blog Parties to Boost Website Traffic

What is a blog party? Blog parties, also called link parties, are online link sharing opportunities. They're usually hosted on DIY or "mommy" type blogs but may be on any type of blog.

On a blog party or link party, you'll have the opportunity to share your blog post via a tool called InLinkz. It's a Wordpress Plugin favored by blog party hosts because it offers an easy opportunity for participants to share links.

With InLinkz, the blogs shared on your party are automatically added and updated as participants their blog posts. You can add one post, but some parties allow you to add more than one. You can add any post -- an old post or a new one. I like to add one new post per week and then trot out an old favorite from my blog for other parties.

Whatever post you choose to share, it should feature a good quality photograph that you have permission to share. The more eye-catching the photo, the better. The photos are displayed in a tiny thumbnail, so they should be bright and big. Little details tend to get lost in the smaller pictures.

Once you share your link, what happens? Well, with each blog party, it's different. Some party hosts request you to leave a comment or share other participants' posts. Read the instructions on the blog party itself. Hosts set their own rules. Most ask you to follow the blog party hosts on social media, and comment and share at least 1 or 2 other party posts. Some ask you to add a graphic or code to your sidebar.

Where to Find Link Parties

The best place to find link parties is on your favorite blogs. Start looking for them, because most bloggers in the DIY and "mommy" space (those catering or writing to people who have children, families, craft, garden, etc) participate in at least one or two per week. I'm a co-host for the #HomeMattersParty or Home Matters Link party, by the way, over on my home and gardening blog, Home Garden Joy. You're welcome to add your blog post to this week's party or the new on happening each Friday if you fit the profile of party participants: DIY, crafts, recipes, homemaking, etc.

You can also search for link parties online. There are also groups on Facebook dedicated just to bloggers promoting link parties.

Why Participate in Link Parties?

Link parties are a good way to generate traffic to your blog posts, but they can be a lot of work. There are numerous pros and cons to participating in link parties:


  • Can generate traffic
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Find other parties to participate in
  • Share on social media and have your posts shared


  • If it's not the right niche, it may not generate enough traffic.
  • Co-hosting a party is a lot of work and requires time.
  • The traffic you get may not be the 'right' kind of traffic. In other words, it may be lookie-lous but not people who are truly interested in reading your blog posts.
  • It's useful for consumer blogs...and may not work well for business related blogs.

I have included blog parties in my toolkit this year to boost traffic to my gardening blog, Home Garden Joy. One of my goals for the blog this year has been to boost page views and lower the bounce rate.

I've been participating in a link party as a co-host consistently now for six months and have seen my blog traffic double. More importantly, links are being shared. One link to an old blog post went viral last month, causing my traffic to soar. There's been a continual uptick since then, probably due to the search engines taking more notices of my little blog. At least I hope so.

The bounce rate on my blog, however, remains stubbornly high. I think it's due to poor naming conventions on my blog from years ago when I considered my blog more of a hobby than a true website. I am still revising many of my old blog posts to make them better optimized and more professional.

My participation in the Home Matters Blog party takes about 3-4 hours per week, which is a considerable amount of time to invest. However, the audience for the party of mostly women in their 30s, 40s and 50s is perfect for my blog and I have met and made many new contacts thanks to the party activities. If you're trying to reach a specific DIY demographic, participating in blog parties and link parties may be a great opportunity to boost your blog traffic.

For more information on this topic, see:

Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert
Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert


by Jeanne Grunert/Seven Oaks Consulting. Jeanne is a marketing writer and freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, technology and lifestyle content for clients worldwide. She's the author of several books including Pricing Your Services: 21 Tips and Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden. Learn more about her work or hire her to write for you at Seven Oaks Consulting | Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert.

5 Surprising Reasons Why Blogs Fail


Do you know the reason why blogs fail? You might think it's lack of interest, or maybe poor writing, but I'm here to share with you the 5 surprising reasons why blogs fail...and how you can turn that frown upside down and get your blog back on track.

Blog Word Cloud

5 Reasons Why Most Blogs Fail

One of the goals that I set for my website, Home Garden Joy, is to increase my site traffic and decrease my blog's bounce rate this year. It's not an easy goal. With WordPress reporting 74,652,825 blogs on their site alone, it's tough to crack the blogosphere with zippy content.

I decided to join a link party or blog party this year to help boost traffic to my own blog. A blog party is an online event in which a group of bloggers bands together to share, promote, and help each other with their blogs. As part of the blog party, I visit at least 60 to 100 different blogs each week.  That's a lot of blogs!

Because I'm now reading so many blogs, in so many different categories than my own, I've gotten a really good sense about what makes a great blog, a good blog, and a boring blog. These 5 tips are derived from my own experiences reading 100+ blog posts a week.

Ready? Here's why most blogs fail:

  1. What's the point? Many bloggers have a hazy, unfocused blog that tries to cover everything under the sun. Today they're writing about parenting issues, tomorrow about fashion, and on Friday, home decorating. That's not to say that you can't do this, but if you do decide to cover a multitude of topics, make sure you do in a fresh, fun way. Having your blog structured around particular posts on a certain day of the week, such as Foodie Friday or whatever can give it structure. Keep your blog focused around one major topic and similar related topics. Structure in blogs, as in art of music, is a key to a successful blog.
  2.  Where do I look first? If you have 17 ads blinking and screaming at me, all boldface type, no discernible headlines, and giant blogs of text, I'm skipping your blog and heading elsewhere. Don't try to cram your blog with every advertiser you can to make money. Focus on just a few or even none if you're starting out. Purchase a good blog template if you're not used to designing a blog. My site host, Web Design of Palm Beach, did an excellent job on the original layout of this website. I purchased the template for my blog, Home Garden Joy, on Etsy. Blogs can fail due to poor design. Hire a professional graphic designer to design your blog or purchase a license to a good stock template. Poor blog design turns readers away.
  3. Nothing new here. When was the last time you updated your blog? While you don't want to be a slave to blog updates and send out several day, you also don't want to let months rush by without at least one blog post. A good rule of thumb is to post 3-5 times per week if you want to grow your blog. Blogs can fail from lack of attention. Frequent updates signals your readers that you've got something to say. Don't neglect your blog.
  4. Nobody cares about you: Unless your blog is about an experiment you're doing or your life, and you're doing something incredible, I have to say this straight out: nobody really cares about you. If all your posts are about what you want for your birthday, your last pedicure, or the coupons you found online, you're going to bore your reader to death. Many blogs fail because they are written all about the writer and not about the audience reading the writing. Write with your reader in mind. What do your readers want to know? That's what you should write.
  5. Be original: Even though I don't want to know every detail of your pedicure, I do want you to be yourself. I'd rather read the writings of a truly original person than to read a poorly reproduced carbon copy of someone. Be yourself. You can't be anyone else. If you love puppies and heavy metal music, let your readers know that. Just because Blogger A is famous and Blogger B seems to be making a lot of money doesn't meant that A and B know what they're doing. They may be lucky, they may have good sponsors, or they may just have hit on a hot topic. I know of one writer whose blog gets 30,000+ hits a month. Now, I could copy what she does...or I could continue to be an original and grow my blogs in my own voice, style and tone. She's popular...but I'm not her. Blogs can fail when you try to copy someone else's style or tone, even if they're popular. Be yourself. You can't be anybody else. 


Building a successful blog takes time. I know that there are stories out there of people who have managed to build a smashing success in six months, a year, or two. Good for them! Congratulations! For more writers and bloggers, success takes time. It takes practice. It takes blogging, day or night, day in and day out, until finally you hit that sweet spot known as success, however you define success.4

Jeanne Grunert_October 2015

By Jeanne Grunert, President, Seven Oaks Consulting.  Jeanne is a freelance writer, blogger and novelist with a background in internet marketing.  This post originally appeared on Acorns, the content marketing blog of Seven Oaks Consulting. Feel free to link to it. Reprints by permission only.