It’s mid-July and yearbook staffs are likely in full planning mode for the 2014 edition — maybe even before the 2013 book has been delivered. There’s not time to rest if you want to get better.
Work to improve each year. Last year’s book may have set records or won awards, so build on those successes and what worked.
Sell more. The book might be beautiful, but you still need people to buy it.
Improve and engage. Better content from an engaged audience results in sales.
That’s success all around!
You still have time to make 2014 the best book on record. Try some new endeavors to improve your yearbook operation. Here are 14 things you can try.
1. Be excellent. It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Strive for excellence. Excellence isn’t settling for pretty good. Good enough is not good enough. Demand the best from every photo, caption, story and design. Set goals to improve with each deadline.
2. Be the #1 source. Be serious about being the top information source and archive for all things about your school. If someone wants to know a fact, score, date, record, time or whatever — be the place they turn for that information. Own sports stats, especially JV and lower squads. No other source is recording this information in this way.
3. Get out there. You can’t really get a story unless you get out and talk to people. In person — yes, in person! You can always tell the difference when a writer has observed and interviewed in person.
Email or chat interviews fill a need, but they are not as effective as being there.
4. Find stories. Establish a solid system in place to gather information beyond the big events. You’ll need this information for the narrative copy blocks as well as sidebars and fast-fact charts. Demand enterprise. Dig around to find something newsworthy and interesting from this year. Write it in a compelling, interesting and useful way.
5. Improve photos. Most of the yearbook is photography, which can make or break the book. Invest time in teaching each staff member to take usable photos that are…
- In focus
- Well composed
Leave every assignment with images that are wide (scene-setting), mid-range and close-up. That gives designers options.
6. Show us. Probably the most widely read (and most liked) stories are those that tell interesting stories about people. Your school and community are full of these stories. Localize national issues with the stories of people around you. Spend as much time on captions as on copy. The captions must be engaging, too.
7. Get social. Use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to interact with readers by posting links to content and by getting tips from readers. Monitor and listen to the conversation, or ask them to let you know about events occurring outside school (or at school but not known). Or search by #hashtag. Let readers submit photos and ideas to you through these pages.
8. Curate and share. Delicious.com is a free social bookmarking site. Pinterest allows sharing and re-sharing by “pinning” on “boards.” Tumblr allows curating links, images, text and video. Post links/items that will be useful to others. Tag and sort in a number of ways to enhance content beyond the printed page. You can also see what others shared.
9. Beyond the page. Flickr is a free online image-sharing service. Make your images available for people to browse as slideshows. Instagram is a social photo-sharing site. Follow others or promote your staff’s work. Show what happens behind the scenes! Through a Creative Commons license, you can get images to use (free and legal!). WikiCommons is another source for free images.
10. Post video. YouTube, SchoolTube and Vimeo are solutions to upload videos. Some might be blocked on school computers, but they’re not blocked on mobile devices or at home, where most people will access the videos. Use short clips that enhance the printed content. Social sites Instagram, Tumblr and Vine host short video clips.
11. Try QR codes. The “QR” stands for quick read and is a type of two-dimensional bar code. Smart phones can scan the codes and launch PDFs, videos or websites. Create a QR code easily and for free online. Even without a website, this is a way to add content and value or to promote sales.
12. Do fewer…
… superlatives that feature the same students as other sections. Find ways to showcase a variety of students.
… cliché stories on topics not tied to a news event. Make sure you have a news peg to include the story. Then localize.
… boring stories that aren’t about people. Feature your students and staff and what makes them interesting in 2014. Dig!
13. Follow the law. Obey copyright. Only use “fair use” images or get permission. Flickr and WikiCommons each allow searches for Creative Commons or public domain images. Know privacy rules. Know your rights.
14. Remember: Your role on campus is to inform your audience and record the events of the year. You have a responsibility — an obligation, even — to take that seriously and to do it well. Your audience needs you to tell the story in a truthful, authentic and teen-oriented way.
This may be one of the most important components to creating a LASTING legacy of quality journalism. It raises the expectations of everyone involved (parents, students, and teachers) and creates mutual support system that perpetuates excellent student work year after year. Even after your departure, Logan, WHS Journalism has continued to receive recognition at all levels. That is the best success a leader (and J-Boosters) can enjoy.