A note from Steve Kent.


The world is changing. Even writing the words, I’m struck by how daunting and obvious they seem simultaneously. Isn’t evolving the reason for being? Isn’t improving the reason for trying?

That pesky word. Try.

Years ago, as a rep in Southwest Virginia, staffs with which I worked faced waning book and ad sales, and worse, waning support for and interest in yearbooks. Something had to change.

Change, for me, starts with asking the hardest of all the questions: Why? Why did parents not rush online to reserve their copies of the most precious book they will ever own? Why did administrators not understand staffers are different, and their care and feeding is akin to that of hothouse roses?

Father of American advertising David Ogilvy believed customers hold the answers. So, he asked them. Every step of the way. And, he changed. He changed culture and economy, sure, but he also changed the creation process. For, he said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

Our buyers should be at the heart of every decision we make.

Which means we have to ask them, in person, what they think about what we’ve been putting onto our pages and covers. I’m not suggesting you send out surveys or remember that one time a parent stopped you in the grocery store and talked about the yearbook. Neither work.

I’m asking you to ask students (and parents if you dare) in group discussions what they like and what they don’t. Show them other books from the area — books your rep can share — reflecting the most contemporary work in the country and, most of all, show them magazines, brochures, catalogs and online sources. Watch their reactions. They hold all the answers.

My family of staffs changed. The books those kids produced changed. They lead revolutions in their zip codes, and you can too. Now, sitting in YBKhq I see other staffs looking to change. And it’s rewarding. This is what we call research-driven books.

We ask. They tell. We do.

Our research tells us students want to feel included in your coverage. That’s both literal and figurative. They want their words and faces on pages. They also want to see their friends because they identify with their stories, too. Thus, our Zero Zeros commitment — so bold we put it on the cover. Zero students should appear zero times.

We believe every student deserves to be remembered. It’s our calling. Power and responsibility reside in the art of storytelling. We own that responsibility. We decide which stories will be recorded forever.

All I ask of you is give in to that pesky word and … try.

Steve Kent, @picaplanet

Creative director at YBKhq who kills too many red pens, brought us Square One™ and preaches about Zero Zeros.