Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Workshop

Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Workshop

Attending a summer yearbook workshop can have a tremendous effect on the following year’s publication, as well as be the perfect team building experience before the school year even begins.


If one workshop doesn’t work for every staffer wanting to attend, consider others with alternative dates. Check out the list of available workshops.


If multiple classes are offered, decide which class will best suit the needs of each staffer. Consider placing students in different classes to get as much information as possible, which can then be shared with the entire yearbook staff.


Complete the registration forms including any medical authorizations and parental requirements. Be sure to submit them prior to the registration deadline.


Payment can be made from the yearbook account funds, from individual staffer funds or a combination of both.


Arrange transportation to and from the workshop through school vehicles or parents. Complete school district forms if required.


Be sure to have a list of staffers with contact information to make communication easy throughout the summer.


Plan to meet with the entire staff during the summer prior to actual workshop dates, allowing all staffers to be involved in the planning process whether or not they attend the workshop.


Getting work done in these areas before the workshop will allow additional valuable work to be accomplished during the workshop.


All staffers, but especially those who will attend a workshop, should put together either a hard copy or digital collection of ideas gathered from magazines, advertising, websites, etc. for design and coverage inspiration.


Hold a discussion about the positive effect of workshop attendance with an open mind and willingness to take advice and suggestions from workshop instructors.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

You’ve made it. You’ve been on the yearbook staff for a while now and you totally know the ropes. You can identify a dull caption from pages away, interview to get to the heart of the story, take a stellar action shot in low light and basically feel very confident to take on another year as a yerd when the unthinkable happens… you learn that you’re getting a new adviser!

Be open to change

Yes, you rocked the old system and you don’t understand why now each staffer needs to fill out an online request before checking out a camera, but I bet your adviser has a reason and it may turn out great. I knew very little about yearbook when I started, but I was pretty good at technology. Thus, this year we integrated augmented reality and joined HJ Plus One to offer our yearbook online. These seemed a little odd at first, but the staff and campus learned to love them.

Be willing to explain

Is your adviser trying to make a change that you know won’t work? Believe it or not, most advisers will succumb to the virtues of logic. Instead of just saying it won’t work, take the time to explain the logical ramifications. You have the experience, and they will listen, OR it will give them a chance to show how that they have considered these pitfalls and what their solutions are.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I had no idea how to spell colophon let alone pronounce it when I started and I was sure I was being judged, but really… that’s small potatoes to the big picture. So if your adviser keeps insisting on the Oxford comma when you’ve never used it before… it’s probably not the best time to mutiny (though advisers, this isn’t really the big push you want to make either). If you focus on every small detail that seems weird, you will end up despising yearbook and your adviser!

Don’t compare

Your new adviser is never going to be the old adviser. They may be better. They may be worse. I can promise you they will DEFINITELY be different. If you continuously compare the two or expect them to do what the last one did, you’re in for a rough ride.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Learn their Starbucks® order

Kidding (kinda). But really, you’re going to spend a lot of time with this random adult. They should be making an effort to get to know you and your staff, and you should learn about them too. Whether you bond over never jumping on the Belieber train, or decide to have a Christmas cookie contest, seeing them as more than just a foreign entity will make everything run a lot smoother (and I strongly believe caffeine makes everything better).

So returning staff members — or new advisers — it’s really not as hard as it may feel at first. Keep the modes of communication wide open, be sure to listen to one another, and you’ll have (or become) a veteran adviser in no time. Good luck and happy yearbooking!

Workshops and Camps: A Staff Must-Do

Workshops and Camps: A Staff Must-Do

Herff Jones does an excellent job of not only providing highly qualified representatives that are amazing resources for new advisers and new student staff members, but they also host valuable workshops and camps that allow everyone to get in on the hottest trends and design ideas.

Once I began attending and presenting at these events with my students, I made sure to make it a fundraising priority. Not only do I get to catch up on all the new offerings from Herff Jones, network with other yearbook advisers, and interact with my staff in fun ways, but my students get to find their place in the yerd community, learn new tips and tricks to use in our next yearbook, and become a closer team.

Workshops and Camps: A Staff Must-Do

These workshops and camps are so very valuable for both advisers (especially new ones!) and staffers alike. We just attended the YBK Workshop 2017 at Western Michigan University hosted by Pam Beitzel and Darin Arnett. One of the sessions was an introduction on Herff Jones’ new creation, Square One, and it excited my staff to begin brainstorming the next yearbook.

Be on the lookout for great fall and spring workshops and make it a priority to at least get your editors to camp each summer. Your representative will have all the information you need to get registered. You won’t regret prioritizing these great opportunities!

Yearbook Business Ads: Making the Most of it in Middle School

Yearbook Business Ads: Making the Most of it in Middle School

Selling business ads can be daunting, especially at the junior high level. However, I believe it’s important for my staff to have experience and understanding of what it takes to communicate and interact with those they may or may not know through the selling process. We begin selling pages the first couple of weeks of school, because we know that other schools will be vying for business ads too. Therefore, this selling activity makes them more comfortable in their role, while breaking the ice with new staff members. Some choose to start over the summer months, which of course, isn’t a bad idea either.

Yearbook Business Ads: Making the Most of it in Middle School

The first activity is handshaking. This may sound silly, but many people have weak or flimsy handshakes, which can tell you a lot about a person’s confidence. We all go around shaking hands, myself included, to familiarize each other with the types of handshakes each person has. I also give constructive criticism when shaking their hands. This is the first way to break the ice. Next, I role play a scene with my editor to show the class what I am expecting them to do when they meet with prospective sponsors.

If they are the seller they must:

  1. Have a yearbook on hand (if available) and sponsorship form
  2. Ask for a manager or business owner
  3. Shake hands and introduce themselves by stating their name, their school and position on staff
  4. State the reason for their visit
  5. Share information about the sponsorship such as page choice, importance of sponsorship, the cost, ways to pay, who to send payment to and the deadline
  6. Follow up with a handshake and thank them for their time

I ask students what they noticed in my role play to keep them engaged. I then switch roles with my editor so that she can practice being the seller. It takes time for them to learn what they must do and say to someone.

Next, I have them break into groups with partners or sometimes three people and ask them to develop a scenario. One must sell the book and the other can be the sponsor. Students can use items in the prop box in their role playing, and I also have premade slips of paper that have scenarios if they cannot think of one. I normally give them 10 minutes to practice. They are allowed to write down a script to help them remember what to say. Before the scene begins, I give the business person in the scenario, a slip of paper that either says to accept their offer or reject their offer, which means the direction of the scene may change. That’s realistic to prepare for when they’re actually out selling.

The rest of the class must analyze the scenario by saying what he or she did well or needs to improve. They will have another chance to replay the scene and can reverse roles. Depending on class time, it normally takes two classes to finish the scenes.

I offer incentives for selling pages — not grades, but yearbook discounts. At the junior high level, students are not driven, and most have to rely on parents to help them sell business ads. Yes, the role playing is fun and beneficial, but most will not be walking into businesses alone to sell pages. Therefore, giving a grade for the number of sponsorships sold can frustrate students and parents. Instead, I give them $5.00 off the price of their personal yearbook for each sponsorship received. Therefore, their books can cost little to nothing.

We sell our pages for $35.00 and so far have done very well. We always set a goal for total sales, which gives our staff a focus. If they meet the class goal, we have a day to celebrate with treats. After all, celebrating big and little accomplishments keeps our staff happy and willing to work.

Transitioning from Theme to Theme

Transitioning from Theme to Theme

It’s that time of year for those of us producing fall books to start wrapping up the ones for this year and begin planning for the next ones. It’s a joyous, never-ending cycle of creativity, and I love that about advising yearbook.

In preparation for this shift from theme to theme, my returning students begin working on theme packets at the beginning of May. They take a week or so to peruse online sites showcasing thematic books, flipping through volumes of Ideas That Fly and pondering the message they want to share with their classmates the following year. They run me out of sticky notes during this week, so as an administrative warning, stock up!

Transitioning from Theme to Theme

Next, they select a single theme that they would like to work with and begin playing around with designs and ideas they have collected. By the end of the second and third weeks, they have ideas for covers, dividers, student life pages, sports pages, reference pages and even the index. I encourage them to think about all the levels of their themes including font selection, graphic elements, color options, internal spacing, photography focus and caption placement.

The final week of May is then reserved for presenting these to their classmates. They talk through their theme ideas including anything relevant outside of the obvious visual aspects including organizational ideas and journalistic focus or patterns. We generally narrow down the themes to our favorite two and work through both again before making a final selection. The selected theme is then the focus of their final exam. My students take their theme choice and make adjustments based on previous discussions. Sometimes they integrate elements from other theme packets that they really liked, so this takes collaboration and some time.

As a cumulative exercise, students are then responsible for presenting our final theme idea (via Google Slides) to our Herff Jones representative. She asks questions, clarifies concepts, gives the students immediate feedback on their theme plan and really helps them see where they may have some gaps and adjustments to make before fall.

I love wrapping up our year in this way, and seeing them build a working relationship with our representative is an exciting perk, too.

The Power of One

The Power of One

During the last day of our yearbook sales, we had two final plans to persuade non-buyers to reserve their book. We’ve called our non-buyers twice throughout the year to tell them what page they were on. We’ve sent parent e-mails. We’ve tweeted. We’ve hung bathroom flyers.  We’ve posted Facebook and Instagram messages — yet we were still 104 books shy of reaching our goal.

So during the last day of sales, we resorted to our final approach. I printed off the non-buyer list and had every one of my students highlight the names of two or more students they personally knew and send them the following message:

“Today is the final day to purchase a 2017 yearbook at (Job Number: XXXXX) If you are not sure if you purchased a copy, call The Yearbook Order Center toll free at 866-287-3096.” (Be sure to provide your job number in the message!)

That day, we sold an additional 76 books. We were that much closer to our goal, so I sent this message out to coaches and clubs and activities sponsors:

“Hi All,

I am reaching out to you today in hopes that your club, activity or sports team would be willing to purchase a yearbook for a student in financial need.  A yearbook is a luxury item that many of our students can not afford.  If your organization is willing to lend a helping hand, please let me know.  No amount of money is too small.  

Thank you in advance,


That blitz helped us capture 72 non-buyers.  But I was not willing to not meet our yearbook sales stretch goal, so I devised another plan, which plays into our school theme of altruism.

I decided to invite the faculty to help us provide yearbooks for financially needy seniors.  I sent the following e-mail.

“Dear Coaches and Sponsors,

This is my final plea, I promise.  

As the school year comes to a close, I would love to see our seniors in need graduate with memories from their journey at West High.  We have 29 students on our financial needs list.  We would love to reach 100% of our audience.  We would love your help!

It’s easy to do:

1) E-mail me and CC: the Budget Secretary that you’re interested in participating.  She can Journal Voucher the money directly from your account to the Yearbook Account.

I’ll do the rest.

Have a fantastic weekend.


With this message we were able to provide every single student on the list a yearbook.  We were able to not only show the student body they are cared about, but we also shared the yearbook love.

We are now 10 books shy of our stretch goal and I have no doubt students that forgot to buy a book will stop by begging to get their hands on a copy.

Journalist Portfolio Reflects and Celebrates

Journalist Portfolio Reflects and Celebrates

Producing the yearbook is the ultimate group project, yet, the work of each individual journalist needs to be celebrated as well. A single journalist contributes many components to the yearbook, but, with the exception of a small byline or a shout out in the colophon, this work does not get much individual acknowledgement.

One of the strategies I use to celebrate the individual accomplishments of each staff member is to have him/her create a portfolio of all of the pages completed for the yearbook. As a class, we wrote a generic cover letter for the portfolio, with the intended audience as the journalist’s parents. Each student filled in the letter with specifics about the stories written, favorite photos and some of the things learned throughout the process of constructing the yearbook. This cover letter is the top page of the portfolio and attached to it is a copy of all of the pages the student has worked on throughout the year.

Journalist Portfolio Reflects and Celebrates

The portfolio goes home for the parents to review and sign. This year, when my students turned their signed portfolio in to me, they commented on how rewarding it was to share their work with their parents, something that isn’t done much at the high school level. As the adviser, the portfolio serves two additional purposes for me. The first is that I have an additional chance to provide positive feedback on the work the student has done. The second is that I can review the portfolio for the journalist’s strengths as I decide leadership positions for the upcoming year. Win, win!

Beginning to Train the New Staff: Photography

Beginning to Train the New Staff: Photography

Whether the new recruits have any type of prior journalism experience or not, there are lots of bases to cover when training the newbies. You have to start somewhere, so why not here with an overview of a Yearbook Academy video on photo composition? This video will cover the most basic (but important) things to know in order to take quality photos. Watch and learn — then practice and sharpen the new skills.




Composing an image means arranging elements in a frame that captures your subject and communicates your idea. There are six main components to consider, and when done right, it won’t necessarily matter what type of camera you’re using.

  1. Center of Interest is the main focal point of the photo. Always, always have a center of interest. It will guide the viewer’s eye through the frame, directly to your subject.
  2. Rule of Thirds — good photographers split their frames into thirds both vertically and horizontally, making nine parts. The center of interest should be placed at any of the 4 “hot spots” or where those grid lines intersect to produce the most appealing photo.
  3. Framing is when the photographer looks for ways to give the photo dimension through objects in the foreground or background. Think: doors, windows or trees.
  4. Leading lines draw the viewer’s’ eye to the center of interest. This can be done through linear patterns or object angles.
  5. Patterns/repetition can create visually interesting photography, especially when the pattern is somehow broken up. That disruptive subject draws readers in and makes them take a closer look.
  6. Varying camera angles is very important in taking high quality photos. As the photographer, more often than not, you’ll have to climb high, get low or be uncomfortable to get the best shot, and it’s always worth the extra work.

Beginning this type of training now is a good way to guarantee beautiful photography in next year’s book.

*If you want access to watch all of them, visit the Yearbook Academy page and log in with your HJ credentials. Not yet a Herff  Jones customer? Click here to gain access to the entire collection of Yearbook Academy videos.

Finding Theme Inspiration in Magazines

Finding Theme Inspiration in Magazines

It’s time to dive head first into the wonderful realm of the next yearbook’s theme development. It’s a process — a complicated one at that, and for many staffs, it starts soon. Luckily, you have options, ideas and inspiration in virtually any direction you look. Ideas That Fly, the Showcase Collection, Pinterest, Discoveries magazine… speaking of magazine — that’s exactly where I want to point searching staffs today.

Head to the closest magazine rack and grab a few favorite publications. Or grab a few that you’re not so familiar with. Searching through page after page of magazines offer variety, and while it can be a lot of different options to consume, too many is better than too little, right?


I think it’s safe to say magazines set a standard when it comes to design. They have large audiences who look to their products to see what’s fresh and new — your staff won’t be the only ones turning to magazines as a source of creative inspiration. Look at how they are laying out stories and content, consider what you want to cover then, take a page from their book and use mod ideas or other layout details on your own pages.


For all you font fanatics out there — you know who you are — magazines are the perfect place to look for snazzy headline treatments and packages, font pairings and styles. A font and treatment of the font can make or break a page. Do your staff a favor and peek at how the pros are doing it.

Color palettes

Color is abundant in this world. With so many options, it can be difficult to narrow down a color palette… especially for something as important as your next THEME! Browse through magazines to see what continues to catch your eye. Is it a pair of colors, a single neon color that you’re obsessing over or is it subtle naturals and pastels?


Advertisements can be great sources for photography inspiration. Whether it’s the angle of the photo, the subject or the effects, they can give your staff ideas of types of photography you might want to include in next year’s book.

Copy/How information is presented

Infographics are a great example of how information is delivered in a not-so-typical way. Notice how large publications are telling stories. Are they using lists? Fun graphics? Quizzes? These formats do a great job of visually grabbing the reader’s attention — the idea is to make them look at the design (because it’s nice and lovely) and then want to read what it is you’re talking about.

Visual Theme Concepts

Don’t forget to look for tiny details that will make readers “Oooh!” and “Aaah!” This means graphics, lines or cool effects applied to any/all yearbook elements mentioned above. It could be a cool folio treatment, photos in text, trendy graphic elements and so much more.

When a magazine page makes you stop and examine more closely, mentally dissect the layout. Decide what you like about the headline package, photo or layout. Odds are, you’ll only use bits and pieces of inspiration when moving forward with the new theme. Bring those elements to your staff as theme development continues. And, as a bonus tip… physically dissect parts of magazines that you like to create a staff mood board! Display it somewhere in the staff room for a constant source of inspiration and a place for beloved ideas. Get those creative juices flowing!

Increasing Book Pickup Requires Creativity

Increasing Book Pickup Requires Creativity

Distribution day. Those words combine excitement and dread among my yearbook staff. It’s particularly difficult for my campus, because we don’t sell the book in the traditional sense, (and we create a college yearbook). Students must “opt-out” to a fee in the fall semester if they don’t want a book, and then the staff schedules pick-up points around campus to distribute the books to the students who either chose not to opt out, or simply neglected to do so.

When I was hired to advise the Tower Yearbook at Northwest Missouri State University five years ago, distribution was a weeklong affair that took place in the Student Union the week after books arrived on campus in April. The problem was only about half of the books were picked up. All of these students who purchased the book either didn’t come by the Union to get one, or they got mad when they found out they had paid for a book they said they never wanted. It was a dilemma. Our solutions have continued to evolve with what I consider excellent success.

My first year here, our storage facility was housing about 1,200 leftover books from each of the previous five years of distribution (books older than that were recycled, due to lack of storage). My first distribution as adviser saw about that same number left over at the end of the week. I didn’t want that to happen again. The problem? How do we get students to pick up something for which they’ve already paid, but say they don’t necessarily want?

The second year, distribution was about visibility. In addition to distribution in the Union, we set up distribution points in a campus building called The Station, which is where all campus residents go to get their mail, plus additional dining options. We also distributed at the library. We had 400 more books picked up that year, leaving us with just 800. Still too many, but better. While visibility increased, we still had students who didn’t see any value in the book, even though they had paid for it. Those had to be our next target.

The third year we spent the entire academic year promoting the book. We began publishing “sneak peak” photos of students on social media who were in the book, tagging them so they knew they were going to be in the yearbook in the spring. We shot promotional videos that were pushed out via social media as well. But the biggest change? We sent a personalized email to every student in the Index of the book, letting him or her know what pages they were on in the book, and where to pick it up if they purchased one, or how to buy it if they had opted out of the fee in the fall.

The result? Pick up increased by another 300 books. Still, that’s 500 leftover books, but fewer than half of what we had when I started!

This past spring was year four. We continued the previous year’s activities and, in addition to emailing everyone in the book, we sent reminder emails to everyone who had paid the fee. That resulted in some ugly, rude responses from students who were mad they had bought a book, and that’s an issue we’ll probably always have with students who don’t bother to read their fall bills and check all of the boxes. But, we also had students who said they had no idea they had bought a book, who then showed up to pick one up. We also added distribution points in two high-traffic academic buildings. This year, we have just 200 books remaining from last year, our best distribution yet!

I would love to run out this year. One thing I neglected to mention above is that we do a final distribution each year on graduation day, in the lobby of our arena. The problem is that area becomes exceptionally crowded before and after the ceremony, meaning a lot of new graduates probably don’t even see the table. This year, we are negotiating to have yearbook distribution next to the same room where the students must return their cap and gowns after the ceremony. We are hoping that will increase senior pickup of the book (and it’s also a day when seniors who get the book often ask for all four books for their time here — it would be nice reduce that inventory even more as well!). Check back with me in May and I’ll let you know how that new idea worked out.