Now in the second semester of the school year, is your effort slowing down??
Here in mid January every school is making the transition to the second semester of the school year, or the third marking period. And in my 18+ years of working as your Jostens yearbooks representative I've noticed that it's around this time of year that many yearbook staffs, both spring and fall yearbooks, start to slow down. Enthusiasm for yearbook work starts to wane in staffs that are not well organized. I've already seen this at a number of schools this month.
Obviously, this is BAD for any yearbook group. Hitting deadlines, staying active with book and ad sales, and finishing your book on time are all crucial to getting your book on-time and finishing with a solid financial footing. And right now may be the most important time of the school year to make sure you and your group hit your goals and finish strong.
What challenges do many yearbook advisers face at this time of year? Let's run down a few...
SENIORITIS: Ah yes, that annual affliction that spreads like a virus in virtually every high school out there. Seniors gradually begin to just cruise toward graduation and just don't feel like working anymore. I've seen senioritis just decimate yearbook staffs, especially those made up of all or primarily all seniors. Then the rest of the yearbook work, and sometimes that's a sizeable amount, falls completely on the adviser's shoulders.
What's an adviser to do? First off, absolutely get a mix of students on your yearbook staff in different grades. When I see an all senior staff I immediately expect problems down the line. For high schools get an equal mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores and even freshmen on your staff. If an administrator somehow deems that the high school yearbook staff must be all seniors, point out the risks of such a decision. Then when the seniors start to "mail it in," you can always fall back on your underclassmen to finish the yearbook job, and interestingly there is no "junioritis," etc.
How can you motivate seniors? My opinion is to rely on a small number of senior workers you trust and ditch the lazy seniors, get them right off the staff if possible. Having them around causes a drag on everyone else - if that person's lazy, why not me? Put those good senior workers in positions of responsibility over younger staffers. And advisers should stay on seniors' shoulders every day until the yearbook is done. Never expect that somehow the yearbook will get finished, take a hands-on approach and make sure it gets done.
LAGGING SALES: For spring yearbooks especially, sales seem to run out of gas around this time of the year, mainly because of the old idea that when the final yearbook order is sent to the printing plant, the sale for the year is obviously over.
In a word, NO!!! Your yearbook sale should be an ongoing effort from the first day of school (and maybe even sooner!) right up to the day you hand out your new books. When you tell the printing plant how many books you wish for the year, you still have three or four months left before you hand out the books. Take that important time to continue marketing your valuable book - don't wait till the books come in and THEN try a late sale. You'll drive yourself crazy at the end of the year when you should be relaxing and enjoying your new edition.
These days, along with an in-school book sale, you can also easily setup an online sale or multiple sales, allowing parents to easily buy a yearbook with a credit card or other ways whenever they wish. Take advantage of these different ideas and maximize your book sale this year.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Here's another area where midyear laziness makes an effect. A yearbook is pretty boring without images, and a great variety of them. Certainly at this point of the year there are still plenty of activities going on - winter sports games, upcoming spring sports practices and/or games, winter dances, academic activities, etc.
A well organized yearbook staff should avoid this problem - keeping track of activities, checking your ladder for what you have planned for certain pages, then assigning students to cover events to get the images from those activities to put on those pages. For advisers who have been "winging it" and trying to cover events as they have been happening without a definite plan, that's a recipe for problems. It reminds me of the old line, "plan your work, then work your plan." Keep taking pictures right up to the end of your yearbook effort, then keep taking MORE and store them away for next year's yearbook.
PROOFING: Here's yet another area where laziness can mean real trouble. Proofing seems to be the one area that many people really don't like - after all, I've been working on this page or spread for weeks or months and I'm just getting tired of seeing it.
One solution is to print out proofs of pages and give them to a trusted someone outside your yearbook group, preferably an adult who is a good speller and has a sharp eye for picking up errors in a page design. Hopefully that person will have an interest in your yearbook and would actually look forward to proofing your pages, their way of getting a "sneak peek" at the new book. Be sure to give this person or people a printed Thank You in your book.
One very important rule of proofing - never allow the person who created the page or spread to also proof it. If the person made errors on the page originally, they probably won't pick up those errors while proofing. Always get someone else to do the proofing.
SPECIAL FOR FALL YEARBOOK STAFFS: For you, all of the above problems can hit at the same time either now or later in the spring, and that means REAL trouble. I've seen fall yearbook advisers have long summers because when the last day of school arrives, a tremendous amount of yearbook work remains, and staffers quickly disappear when summer vacation arrives.
The solution? Work hard right up to the last day of school, and make sure the only pages left on that last day are end of year activities - graduation, maybe a spring sports team still playing, etc. Then when only a few pages of work remain, make it part of your plan to hold onto whatever staffers you can trust and finish those remaining pages in the week after the last day of school, no later. Interested students will stay interested for a few more days after the school year ends, and then everyone can go off on summer vacation and enjoy their time off without worrying about yearbook work.
MOTIVATE AND REWARD YOUR STAFF: Hopefully you've already done this at least a little so far this school year. Here at the start of the second semester or third marking period, why not throw a little party for the staff, or maybe choose a day for everyone to bring in a snack to share while you handle the drinks. If your kids have been working hard this year they deserve a break and a treat. If they haven't been working that hard, maybe a staff party will be a motivator to kick start their efforts for the next few weeks.
Successful yearbook advisers are always well organized, usually excellent motivators, and always interested in creating the best yearbook possible. When one or more of those factors goes, that means trouble ahead. The same goes for yearbook staffers, and it's this time of year, the January Blahs, when one of more of those three traits starts going south. Do whatever you can to avoid these headaches, and let me know if I can assist you and your staff further to insure ultimate success this year.