When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

Erinn Harris had everything figured out. She ran the well-oiled machine that was the yearbook program at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. And, she had a system in place.

“Tell them what needs to happen, print at 100%, conference, and everything will get done. Because it always gets done,” the Alexandria, Virginia adviser said.

It was like magic.

That was the plan for five years. And it was the plan at the beginning of the year. But then, she said, 2018 became the year of, “Oh So Real.”

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

“My class was comprised of two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors,” she said. “Even though I knew only two of these six had a year of class experience under their belts, this is how I started the year. And as of December, we were behind by 49 pages and more proofs than I’d like to admit.”

It was winter break and she needed to start over. The plan from the past five years was not going to cut it anymore. So, she changed.

“The key to adapting to the circumstances of your year is to know yourself and know your kids and figure out what they need to be successful, understanding success may just look different year to year,” the master journalism educator said.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

This year, she said, the staff needed structure. In January, she created it.

“At the end of every class period, my students fill out a Google form exit ticket. On it, they tell me, among other things, three items they want to accomplish before the next class period, something they are worried about and something they are celebrating.”

Download an example of the form here.

The form dictated how the class ran. Each day, she used responses to create individual goals. Then, in class they followed a new agenda. They shared celebrations, moved to a short lesson, spent 30 minutes on goal work, then 30 minutes planning for upcoming deadlines. To finish the period, staffers filled out their exit tickets.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

No longer a, “Here’s what needs to get done, now do it,” adviser, Harris focused on celebrations.

“When you’re having a rough year, that’s what’s going to get you through,” she said. “The knowledge that the experiences we’re going through are so thoroughly relatable. All you have to do is find a way to adapt to what life throws at you.”

 


Erinn Harris has advised student publications for 12 years, three at Lee High School in Springfield,Virginia and nine at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Recently earning the Virginia High School League Savedge Award for Continued Excellence, these staffs have earned NSPA Pacemaker awards and CSPA Crowns.

 


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It’s Time for the Talk

It’s Time for the Talk

At the close of the year, distribution day sounds like the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it’s not for the faint of heart. Or for the unprepared.

Justin Daigle has lived through a few distribution days as the adviser at Brighton High School in Brighton, Colorado, and he knows how to prepare his staff for the challenging moments. He knows when it’s time for “the talk.”

He begins with how they communicate with each other. Negativity comes from all directions, but should never come from the staff, he said.

“Let’s face it, each time we open the book, we find some new type of error: A misspelled name or word, a graphic in the wrong place, or a bar that’s blue instead of red. First, we have to accept the book is printed and we did the best we could,” the certified journalism educator said.

As Daigle reminds his staffers to leave behind their critical eyes once the ink has dried, he tells them to stay out of the comments section.

It’s Time for the Talk

“If a student sees a negative social media post about the yearbook, I want them to be the bigger person and let it go. No staff member should post anything negative or passive aggressive about any incidents or feedback from the book,” he said.

Repeat: Do. Not. Engage. The. Haters.

And Daigle leads the charge. When those inevitable parent phone calls start, and when students post hateful comments about a page, he lets it go.

He teaches how to combat negativity by being proactive.

“I send an email to the school employees revealing the theme and the details about yearbook distribution. I ask them to squelch any negative comments they may hear in the halls or in their classrooms and redirect them to how fantastic the book is.”

Another tactic is to include a policy in each book. Staffers put them inside the front endsheet as they hand out books so buyers see they are there.

It’s Time for the Talk

The policy sheet directs students to check the book for damages, apologizes in advance for typos and mistakes, and includes a statement about yearbook being the only class where work is published for all to see so proceed with complaints accordingly, as well as the staff’s policy against refunds.

There are, of course, legitimate issues, such as name misspellings or direct quote discrepancies. Daigle has a process for those as well.

“First, take a time out. Rather than getting defensive or angry, do your research, and if a mistake was made, own it and apologize,” he said.

Distribution day should be one of the greatest celebrations of the year, and if staffers are prepared for what they will experience, it can be.

It’s Time for the Talk

“We spend hours upon hours upon hours working on our yearbooks until the final proofs are sent,” Daigle said, “so we become very close to it. We should prepare to celebrate the positive feedback while also putting systems in place to work through any negative criticism. The staff works too hard all year to let any negativity ruin anything we accomplished.”

Download a sample distribution policy here, and if you have your own, send it to us. We love to learn and to see what advisers everywhere are doing.

 


Justin DaigleJustin Daigle, CJE, has advised the Reflections yearbook at Brighton High School in Colorado for 12 years. His students’ publications have earned state and national awards including CSPA Crowns and NSPA Pacemaker honors. Daigle was the 2009 Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) Teacher of the Year as well as JEA Rising Star in 2010 and Special Recognition (2014) and Distinguished (2016) Yearbook Adviser of the Year.

 


OUR PORTFOLIO IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT YOU

Submit your 2018 yearbook.

Book Sales Efforts Way Beyond Posters

Book Sales Efforts Way Beyond Posters; Yearbook Angels and Pursuing Non-Buyers

It’s spring. You still have books to sell. Something has to happen.

This is when Lisa Sherman kicks off her annual telethon.

“We run a non-buyers list report in eBusiness, which tells us who hasn’t ordered and provides contact information for their guardian,” the 16-year adviser from Edwardsburg, Michigan, said. “Then, each of my staff members takes a section of the list and makes personal phone calls to each individual.”

The cold calling adds another practical skill to the class. She posts a script on the whiteboard reminding students how to introduce themselves, talk about the yearbook and give ordering instructions.

“Week one, we call all non-buyers with the last names starting with A–L. In week two, we contact the remaining non-buyers with last names M–Z. Week three is for going back through all the lists and emailing parents who have still not purchased, even after the phone contacts.”

Book Sales Efforts Way Beyond Posters; Yearbook Angels and Pursuing Non-Buyers

The last week of the month, staffers send out a final reminder to the students’ email accounts. At that point, the guardians had heard directly from the staff twice and the student heard once. In one month.

An extra bonus: the staffers gained skills and confidence in business communications.

Each staffer has a goal of selling 10 more books by the end of the month. And that adds up. Sherman has seen a dramatic increase in sales through the telethon. Maybe this is the last-minute sales push you need.

Light Bulb Moment

Adviser and staff change the way their yearbook takes shape.

His light bulb moment happened in church.

Willamette University’s Cone Chapel to be exact. That was the site for Yearbooks Northwest’s 2015 opening session, and where adviser Chris Wells had a revelation.

“Sitting at Willamette — it was the first camp we’d ever attended ­— we saw these blue boxes and pink things on the screen. It was revolutionary. We realized, ‘This is what we want to do,’” the Cottage Grove High School dean of students and yearbook adviser said. “We wanted to cover all these things, get all these kids in the book and still have the book be beautiful.”

Those blue boxes and pink things are a part of  Herff Jones’ Square One™ approach to space allocation and page production modeled after how professional publication designers work. Yearbooks Northwest is one of the Pacific Northwest’s top workshops, and it turns out, was a perfect testing ground, among others around the country, for the pilot.

“Until we switched to work with Herff Jones in 2014, our process was ‘Let’s make stuff look interesting. We like this. We like that.’ We had no rhyme or reason. We had no template for how to make things look cohesive,” the Oregon adviser said.

Seeing Square One™ for only minutes, Wells said he watched his staff members have light bulb moments.

“It was clear. It was design with purpose. It set us on our way.”

Wells and his Lion Tracks staff members produced their 2016 book as part of the Square One™ pilot group, and while they always had natural strengths in coverage, these before-and-after images show the staff’s progression to more refined scale, space use and all-important coverage or more students.

“As a teacher, it made my life easier,” he said. “We can snap spreads together. The approach lets me be more efficient with my time, and the kids are more attentive to their duties. For the designers, for instance, it made it so we didn’t have to think about it. Back in the day (meaning, oh, before May 1, 2017) we had to over think every decision, each spread started almost from scratch. Now, it has become part of our DNA. It’s just what we do.”

2016 LAYOUTS WITH SQUARE ONE™

 

Wells and his staff already had a well-developed workflow, which was only enhanced by the logical, “real-world” adoption of Square One™ and its modern, grid-based approach to formatting spreads.

“We follow our own set of principles creating modules,” he said. “Save it. Drop it in. Rotate it. Flip it. Once you get something going it just becomes a game of shapes. At first, we were nervous about reusing something. Then, at camp, we saw how leading yearbook staffs and the top magazine designers artfully repurpose to create consistency. As long as the mods are on different pages, it still looks good.”

If you’re worried the approach is hard to learn or takes too much time, don’t be Wells said.

“This is the first year I have four designers. When it finally clicks, one can show the other and say ‘Hey, let’s work together.’ They are able to carry things through because they work together and follow the same principles. Three of the four had never used eDesign before, and three weeks into school they are collaborating and making these beautiful spreads. It’s that simple — if you follow your principles.”

And at Cottage Grove, those principles are clearly outlined.

“We are in our third week of school. We had a week of writing, a week of photo — all my kids have to be able to shoot, write captions, upload and tag images. Now we are into design. It was so quick. Instead of design grinding out over months, I have inexperienced designers churning out pages within a week of actual training.

“The separators are key,” he said referring to the pink strips of paper in Herff Jones’ industry exclusive hands-on packet, and to the pink pop-ins in eDesign and InDesign libraries so named after the graphic design premise of having “separation space” between elements. Separators separate.

“The kids see the spacing, and it’s so nice,” he said. “Then, they just drop modules in. It’s been incredibly quick. It’s always been my goal to get me out of driving the design process, and this is the first year the kids are confident enough to drive it. Finally, I have the inverted pyramid staff structure we hear about at Yearbooks Northwest where the kids are focused on creating that meaningful content, feeding that to leaders, editors and designers and then it comes to me to review before they submit. Square One™ has set all that in motion.”

Lion Tracks staff members design their own modules, sometimes using one from more than 500 supplied examples as their starting points.

“We have come to the conclusion it’s a book done faster, so we can focus on turning zeros on the coverage report to ones. It’s super fast to use the modules and to teach the kids how to create their own following the design principles we’ve learned. I see a lot of original stuff this year, now that they are more confident. We are varying from overly modular (or “digest”) spreads to intentional feature spreads leading into sections. But, our rules still hold true. The separation space between copy packages and dominants, for instance.

“They had no place to start before,” he said. “This gives us that. They see it right away. They reach decisions and regenerate existing ideas to fit the modular spaces. Again, it’s revolutionary. I can have a ‘legit’ staff where the kids can just go get ‘em. I can advise. One of the most foreign things was always setting up all the different components of a page. To have all that at your fingertips gives us time to focus on getting photos and stories. We don’t have to spend late nights trying to get what we want.”

Following their hearts to have an impact on their community, staffers have seen their yearbook can be an instrument for social change by telling more students’ stories and including more student voices ­— making students feel included, important and heard.

“The best thing I realized is Square One™ let us create more than a yearbook,” Wells said. “My staff is now showing kids at our school they matter. It’s bringing kids into feeling a part of the school.”


Chris WellsChris Wells is in his fifth year advising the Lion Tracks yearbook at Cottage Grove High School in Cottage Grove, OR, where he also teaches graphic design and serves as dean of students. He took over the school’s print media program in 2013, his first experience with yearbook since graduating as the yearbook editor in 1999. A graduate of the University of Oregon with a degree in philosophy, Chris’ pastime has been graphic design and digital illustration for the last 15 years.

Marketing Your Books

Marketing Your Books

It’s not enough to create a beautiful yearbook and hope it sells so you can pay your final bill. It takes strategic planning and implementation of the plan to experience a sell-out and true success.

There are a variety of successful strategies that can be used to sell yearbooks so you’ll want to consider all of them and choose the one(s) that best fit your school. Next, you’ll want to use as many different ways to get the information about sales into the hands of the people buying the books — the parents.

Don’t forget about social media which is playing a larger role than ever in helping to boost sales. While Facebook may not be the most popular site with the students at your school, it is still a very popular site with parents and if used correctly, can help drive more sales. Other sites like Instagram, Twitter and even Pinterest can be used by your staff to get the word out that books are on sale by giving sneak peeks at images that are actually being used in the book. Don’t worry if you’re not a power user of all of these social sites, yet. Use this social media guide to get started today or better yet, assign one of your savvy staffers to the post of social media manager.

For even more great videos to help you make the most of your marketing efforts, you’ll want to log in and watch these Yearbook Academy Marketing videos. If you’re not currently a Herff Jones customer, contact your local representative who would be happy to share these with you.

And, no matter what you do, always remember that students really only want to own a book if they know that they are in it so you’ll want to do everything in your power to have as many of your students featured in the book at least two to three times.

It Really IS Your Business

It Really IS Your Business

The real-life skills learned during the course of the year by creating and producing the yearbook and marketing it to the student body are some of the highlights of being a productive member on a yearbook staff.

With the right training, your business can exceed expectations, but —  just like in the real world — that takes planning and prioritizing, meeting deadlines and staying on budget; it’s exactly what a small business needs to do to survive and thrive.

If you adopt that business mentality from the very beginning and teach your staff members how to successfully do all of those things including meeting the inevitable challenges along the way, they will be that much further ahead of other kids when they set foot in the “real world” as adults.

Check out how Bill Tobler from Foothill HS, Henderson, NV trains his staff to run their yearbook business here.

Learn about setting SMART goals and selecting the right staff members to meet them here.

While your yearbook may never earn a million dollars, the skills your staff learns along the way will help them in so many more ways than they ever imagined so don’t sell them or your program short.

Let Them Know They are Appreciated From the Very Beginning of the Year

Let Them Know They are Appreciated From the Very Beginning of the Year

Let’s face it, no matter what you teach, your class time is valuable. You have lots of material to cover and a short period of time to get it all in and the last thing you need is someone asking if they can talk to Tyler for just a minute or if they can take pictures in your class. As yearbook advisers, you get it and the last thing you want to do is to cause unnecessary interruptions, but — in order to do your job and tell the stories that make this year unique — you will need to interrupt classes. So, if you want to ensure that the rest of the faculty and staff are more willing to help, you need to do everything you can to let them know from the start of the school year how much you and your staff appreciate their help and understanding.

Here are a few acts of appreciation that your teachers are sure to enjoy.

  • During their pre-planning week, have doughnuts, bagels, coffee and OJ for the teachers to enjoy. If that’s no longer an option, offer them on a teacher workday or deliver them early before school starts.
  • Have your staff write YOU on a smooth rock then place it in a cellophane baggie with crinkle paper and a nice bow like this.
  • Find out favorite beverages and snacks at the beginning of the year and surprise them during the year especially if you find that you need to interrupt them more often than others.
  • Give them the “write” stuff and let them know you care by giving them what they need and who doesn’t need pencils or pens in their classrooms?
  • Put some Reese’s peanut butter cups into a small baggie tied with a ribbon and a note that says “Have we told you “Reese”-ently how much we appreciate you?”

No matter how you decide to show your appreciation, it shouldn’t be a one-and-done deal. Check out what former adviser Leslie Robledo and her staff did year round to show their gratitude.

We’re sure you have some of your own fantastic ways to let the faculty and staff know that you appreciate their support and would love to hear about them in the comments below so please share.

Themespiration

Themespiration

Finding theme ideas was probably one of my favorite activities to do with yearbook staffs because there are viable theme ideas literally everywhere but you do need a trained “eye” to find the perfect one so let’s do a quick review before we start our hunt.

A theme is a verbal statement with visual cues that help to tell the story of your school for a particular year. It needs to be relevant and relatable to your students and community and should appear on the cover, endsheets (if you print on them), title page, opening section, dividers and closing section. Elements of the theme may appear throughout the book in the folios or as graphics on pages.

Types of themes you may want to consider are as follows:

  • Anniversary
  • School Initials
  • School Colors
  • School Mascot  
  • School Location
  • School Name
  • Event
  • Fun
  • Pride
  • Reaction
  • Change
  • Double-Edged
  • Contemplative
  • Conceptual

Once you’ve decided on the type of theme that would work best for you, you can turn your attention to finding the perfect visual phrases and graphic ideas to help convey it. One of my very favorite places to start is on Pinterest and specifically on the Herff Jones Yearbooks Dream Your Theme board and the Inspiring Yearbooks board. And, if there aren’t enough ideas there, you’ll definitely want to check out Ideas that Fly. The examples in Ideas That Fly are all great because they are tested, tried and true themes, but if you want to challenge yourselves a bit more, you might want to page through magazines online at zinio or at your local Barnes and Noble bookstore to find other verbal/visual ideas that stand out and can be adapted to your school easily.

And, just like you can find design ideas everywhere as evidenced in this post, theme ideas are there for the taking so long as you keep your school’s special character in mind when you choose.

Where is the most unique place that you have found a theme for your yearbook? Tell us in the comments below.

It Themed So Perfect

It Themed So Perfect

The purpose of a theme is to tell the complete story of the school year in a unique and compelling way. As a staff, you’ll have to consider how this year is different than last year even if, on the surface, it seems like nothing extraordinary has really changed. Not a small job by any means, but with the help of a theme, you and your staff will be one step closer to making it clear for your students and school community.

A well thought-out theme may be subtle to your readers only later giving them an “a-ha moment” where they put the pieces together for themselves. Once they “get it” they will clearly see that the verbal and visual pieces you chose were used purposefully and that there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the story being told so they have a complete picture of that particular school year.

Sometimes, the perfect theme will almost literally fall from the sky with little to no effort, but — more likely — it will take time and lots of brainstorming to land on the one that works best to help tell the story of your school, for this year.

Your brainstorming session might be with the entire staff or it might be in small groups who then present their top three ideas to the staff which are then brainstormed further until, as a staff, you identify the one that will work best this year.

Have you noticed that I’ve mentioned “this year” quite a few times already in this post? If you’ve been on your staff for any time at all, you probably know that mentioning “this year” in any of your copy is a big “no no,” but for the purposes of explaining theme, it’s an absolute necessity. One of your goals as an adviser and staff should be that every student owns a book for each year they are in school so, if you think about it,  who would want to order a book if it was the same thing every year with maybe — or maybe not — a different cover? I don’t see as many takers for this scenario.

Now, don’t panic if your book hasn’t had a theme before. There’s no better time than now to start a new tradition, and to help you step up your theme game, you may want to consider asking your Herff Jones representative about our curriculum lessons on this topic. Here’s a Quick Start Guide for the first five weeks of high school and one for middle school that introduces Theme Projects which are the perfect way to engage your staff in choosing the best theme.

Once your staff have done their brainstorming and voting and think that they’ve landed on the perfect theme, you’ll want to put it to the 5 R’s test.

Is it RECOGNIZABLE? REPEATABLE? RELEVANT? REFRESHING? REALISTIC? And, if it’s not all of these, it’s time to rethink your theme idea.

Stay tuned for the next post about different types of themes and where you can find them.