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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.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

Advisers Jim Govreau and Morgan Miltner both submitted their final yearbooks March 9. But, they still have a book to complete.

Govreau, of Newsome High School, and Miltner, Strawberry Crest High School, both in Hillsborough County, Florida, and their staffs teamed up to do the impossible — create an entire book in two weeks for a neighboring school in need.

With no cover, no pages submitted and an adviser who started in the second semester with no yearbook experience, the Tampa area staff was about to finish the year without a yearbook.

“Morris Pate, my rep, talked to me about the situation early in the school year, and I visited the school in December,” Govreau said. “The computers weren’t great, there were about four or five students on staff, and nothing was completed.”

By mid-March, the staff had some photos from the school photographer on CDs, but that was it. Pate brought the story back to Miltner’s and Govreau’s attention.

They knew they needed to stage a rescue.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

“My first thought was to throw my students at it,” Miltner said. “I have 66 on staff, why not send them to help. That was late Tuesday night. I talked to everyone and asked what they thought. At first the kids thought I was crazy, but then they said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”

Ten of Miltner’s staffers and four of Govreau’s took a field trip on March 29 to remedy the situation. The advisers worked on eDesign from their respective schools while staffers traveled to the school to gather content and put the book together.

“I was watching eDesign and I texted them at one point and I said, ‘Stop writing.’ We can’t spend any more time writing. We need to get photos in there now,” Miltner said. “We have so many rules and requirements for every spread, every caption, everything has to be done journalistically. It was hard for them to stop doing what they are used to so the work would be done quickly. It was amazing to see them making game-time decisions on how things would be covered and how the spreads would take shape.”

Both Govreau and Miltner teach journalism curricula and produce what we know as data-driven yearbooks. Staffs monitor and measure coverage by comparing student rosters to sources included. They also determine topics and structure using real-time student preferences. So, there’s a process.

“This is much more than a basic ‘picture book,’” Herff Jones Hall of Fame member Pate said. “These kids’ pride wouldn’t allow them to do that.”

Pate said his advisers also know students today demand new plot lines. They and their students follow Herff Jones’ “Zero/Zeros” practice and Square One™ design approach, ensuring as many students as possible are included. They believe every student has a story and both say they feel the responsibility to tell those stories.

Because of this training, photographer and first-year Newsome staffer Elliot Morgan volunteered right away.

“I said I wouldn’t mind going and helping these people out,” the senior said. “I know our staff is capable, great writers and overall great people. And I know from going to events with Strawberry Crest, they are the same. I knew we could put this together and make something lasting for the school.”

On March 27, the now-combined yearbook staffs uploaded portrait pages. By lunchtime, two days later, they had submitted 72 pages. Give them a couple more days, and the book will be completely done.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

“When we saw all of the spreads were empty, we were shocked something like that could even happen,” Newsome editor Ashley Arndt said. “Mr. Govreau asked if we were willing to help, if there was anything we thought we could do. At first, I thought one day wouldn’t be enough. Once we started breaking it down though, it became a lot more manageable.”

Miltner said the students were nervous to go into a school where they did not know anyone and roam the halls, pulling students out of class for interviews and photos. But as they got to work, they started having fun.

“Students would come in the classroom throughout the day and look at the computer, and I would ask if they were affiliated with the sport I was working on,” Arndt said. “Even if they weren’t, they would give me the phone number of someone who was. So, I have random people’s phone numbers from the school now from asking for interviews.”

The community took note.

“They arranged the yearbook dream team,” Pate said. “They fought through nightmarish, rush hour Tampa traffic, organized themselves, took photos, conducted interviews, wrote stories, headlines and captions, assembled pages, dazzled the administration, faculty and students, and by about 4:00 p.m. had pretty much completed a yearbook.”

It sounds like a lot to ask from high schoolers, but these aren’t just high schoolers. They are yearbookers.

“We have a culture in the program,” Miltner said. “You are part of something bigger.”

This Little Rectangular Game-Changer

This Little Rectangular Game-Changer

Walk into Evan Williams’ classroom at Clay Middle School in Carmel, Indiana, and you might think you’ve walked into a professional journalism office. There’s not a desk to be seen. There’s a tad of chaos. And there are students clustered around computers, grouped together on the floor and pouring out into the hallway.

“There’s not enough room for a lab and desks,” he said, “so I just got rid of the desks.”

This is the attitude Williams takes toward everything in his broadcast/newspaper/yearbook space. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, make it better.

With plenty of newspaper experience and a degree in journalism education from Ball State, he came to be a one-stop journalism educator. In a middle school.

“It took me a while to understand yearbook,” he said. “My first three yearbooks are nightmares. I put them up there and I look through them now. They’re a joke.”

We’ve all been there. But he found his groove with our industry-leading online software eDesign, and empowered his students to take charge of their work.

Then Square One™ changed how yearbooks take shape on May 1 last year.

“When you guys announced it,” he said, “I was already on board. And I was like, ‘We’re using the swiss grid,’ and my students were like ‘whaaat?!’ And I was like, ‘We’re being fancy.’”

You heard him. Middle school students taking on Square One™. And being fancy.

“Having the squares on the page – in eDesign the grid boxes with the internal space – that’s a game changer. Kids want to do two columns of text, and doing that with the old grid was not easy. Now I say, ‘go three boxes across and do four boxes down, there’s your two columns.’”

Williams had a moment when it all came together. Two of his students sat down to create a day-in-the-life spread. He walked them through Square One™, and they got it.

“They understood mods without understanding mods. They got each rectangle tells a story. They understood seven different modules are seven different stories, and they were able to jump into their first deadline.”

This simplified approach to teaching formatting gave Williams some peace of mind, but he doesn’t feel like he sold out teaching design.

“We were getting pages done before Thanksgiving, which was unheard of,” he said. “In the past, I’ve been a little leery about using templates because the students want our book to have a unique look. But I didn’t shy away from the interchangeable modules because they have the freedom to change them. Even if we do use the modules, we’re changing the fonts, adding text and some of the design changes to fit the theme.”

Herff Jones’ proprietary design approach just helps, because it’s how professional publication designers craft their spreads. Williams teaches faster, students find success quicker and the pressure of producing the book eases. Plus, you can always create modules and templates from scratch.

“The modules and grid have been a lifesaver,” he said. “For the kids who aren’t as visual, it gives them a starting point they would not have had without a ton of struggle.”

With a new sense of pride and with freshly empowered students, Williams made a promise to his staff members.

“I told the kids, this is going to be one of our best yearbooks ever. This one is going to set a new standard.”


Evan Williams

Evan Williams has advised student publications at Clay Middle School for 14 years and teaches Herff Jones and Ball State University journalism workshops. His students’ work has been featured in Herff Jones’ showcase books four times, and the 2016 volume was a Best in Show winner at the fall JEA/NSPA convention.

 

Countdown Craftiness

Countdown Craftiness

‘Tis the season to take a step back from the computer.

That’s right. Put down the spreads. Take one step back. Now another. Now a deep breath.

You can keep editing until every word loses meaning, or you can take Alicia Luttrell’s advice.

The yearbook adviser and librarian from Maryville Junior High in Maryville, TN, knows we all get antsy before the big holiday break.

“There’s a time when we all have to buckle down and work on yearbooks,” she said, “but there’s a time to have fun and get creative.”

Last year, Luttrell put her creativity to work.

“I had an old tabletop tree and decided to give it a new home in the yearbook room. I also had four small Herff Jones ornaments to display and wanted to create more to take home.”

Luttrell’s staff was thrilled, she said, to see art supplies.

“My students were excited when they walked in and saw glue, tinsel, clear ornaments, yearbook pages and paint brushes on the table. I love to get them working on something different. To get them away from the everyday activities of looking at spreads. Things get a little messy, and that’s okay with me.”

They made mini paper chains and decoupage ornaments from old yearbook spreads as well as “swirly” and tinsel ornaments to add color and sparkle to the tree.

She suggests, “When ornaments are ready, tie a piece of jute or other string on the cap loop and include a cute tag with students’ names. This is a way to remember students who created these ornaments.”

Take on the Christmas ornaments or make an activity of your own. It might just spark the creativity you’ve been hoping to find in the void of the computer screen.

The Future Starts Here

The Future Starts Here

One professional designer has three JEA/NSPA conventions to thank for his career. So, take note fall convention attendees in Dallas. You never know which students will find their callings, their careers and their tribes through high school publications. The industry’s next designers, writers and creative directors are probably attending this convention.

On Nov. 8 just after lunch, Kyle Lewis hopped out of his chair and left his office. He returned a minute later carrying a tattered, white cardboard box.

“My mom’s packing up a bunch of my old stuff and gave me these,” he said as he pulled out three yearbooks and three black and white student-made booklets.

A new graphic designer in Herff Jones’ Indianapolis headquarters, his co-workers were of course drawn to the yearbooks, picking on Lewis’ portraits and remarking at how fashion, design and the world changed in 10 years. They took note of how he had served as design editor of his senior book, a post which launched his career.

The books garnered the initial attention, but the soft-cover booklets incited a frenzy of coincidences. They were publications, reports even, of Lewis’ staff’s trips to three consecutive JEA/NSPA conventions.

“To attend the conventions, we raised money for months,” he said. “But the only way the school board would approve the trip was if we made a review of the convention, showing what we had learned. Everyone was responsible for creating content. Some focused on the cities, some on the conventions and some on the competitions.”

As he told the story of the black and white booklets, Lewis’ co-workers realized, excitedly, he enters the Hyatt Regency exhibition hall today returning to the convention as a corporate employee working in the yearbook industry after having attended three consecutive conventions a decade ago as a student.

That dutiful little teenage designer would be shocked, he said, to know instead of working to recap convention goings-on for his principal, his work would be a part of a booth. (Those yellow-tipped banners and photo illustrations are his handiwork, by the way.)

None of this was part of his plan, he said.

“I took journalism my freshman year on accident. I misread the class listing and thought it was a journaling class.”

His co-workers giggled, too.

“At my high school, you took Journalism 101 freshman year, which is one semester of writing and one semester of design and photography. After, we worked on the publications, and I chose newspaper. But we didn’t get a chance to learn new techniques.”

He said JEA/NSPA conventions were worth the fundraising and the additional labor because, “we could learn from professionals and pick up other schools’ books and papers to get inspiration.”

After three years on newspaper staff, Lewis joined the yearbook staff to get more experience. He attended the 2006 convention as design editor of both publications.

“I like working on both,” he said. “With newspapers, you have a daily or weekly publication. With a yearbook or a magazine, you get something that lives beyond that week.”

With a degree from Ball State and a decade of working in the newspaper industry, he’s found his way home.

“I always thought I would work for a newspaper, but always had interest in working for a magazine. Working for Herff Jones is more like that.”

Will you be the next Kyle Lewis?

Open your eyes to possibilities, your mind to interests and make the best of both.

Who knows where you’ll be in 2027?

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.