By Kathy Daly
Editor’s Note: This article was published in the Spring 1991 printed version of Student Press Review.
Money helps. Talent helps even more. But nothing makes a yearbook more successful or a staff’s experience more rewarding than motivation. A winning attitude doesn’t just happen, however. Rather, motivated advisers and their editors need to actively develop an atmosphere of excellence.
Here are 28 tips that advisers and editors can either use, modify, ignore or embrace. I hope they help motivate yearbook staffs for success.
1 ) Be a model of appropriate behavior for the other staff members. The rest of the staff will do what you do, not what you say. If other staff members see you waste time, they will waste time. If they see that you work overtime, they’ll learn to do that as well.
2) Work on prestige. Make the yearbook into a relevant part of the school. Get sweatshirts with the yearbook’s logo and the staff members’ names – and wear them.
Make I.D. cards for all staff members. At Overland High School, Aurora, CO, our computer editor came up with an official yearbook pass for the staff of The Trail. I took tiny individual pictures of everyone on the staff, and we made information cards with little subliminal messages on it. Staff members picked their own messages, and we laminated the cards. When our staff members are stopped in the hall by a teacher, they whip out the hall pass and say, “I’m on yearbook.” They think they’re special, and they feel professional.
3) Work on morale. Advisers: send letters home to the parents of the student who has done a good job. By letting the parents know how important it is to have their child on the yearbook staff, this letter might give that student some kind of privilege that he or she might not otherwise have, or might get him or her to want to work harder.
Back massages at the computer also help to build morale. How many students have spent more than two hours at a time staring at their screens? When our students start getting stressed in front of the computer, other staff members go up to them and start kneading that muscle in the back of the neck. You can’t stay hostile and angry and want to kill a mouse when you’re having a back massage. It helps.
4) Work on joy. Make laughter part of the yearbook classroom. If editors own Calvin and Hobbes or Far Side books, they can bring them into the yearbook office when they get tired of reading them. When staff members have a moment to relax, they can look at these books, laugh, and feel good about being there.
We ordered a National Lampoon yearbook. It’s called the 1964 Kaleidoscope. The National Lampoon put it out years ago, and they keep reprinting it. It’s the most disgusting, horrible, idiotic yearbook I’ve seen in my life. We spend hours laughing at it.
5) Work within reality. Accept the staff the way it is, and then try to build it. Maybe this is not the year to do the double plus, plus triple columns that have 17 layers, grids, graphs and everything else on them.
6) Work for commitment. The first day of class, advisers should put staff members through an interview that will either scare the heck out of them or make them so excited that they want to be at the yearbook office every day of their life.
Raise your expectations, and your class will strive to meet them. If you enter
the class with the attitude, “We don’t miss deadlines; we are good; you are lucky to be a part of my class, ” and you mean it, your class will start to feel lucky for being there. I’ve advised for 15 years, and I’ve never missed a deadline because I’ve made my students believe that just isn’t within the realm of possibility.
7) Think small. The details of your book are crucial. Look at every page. If you are a section editor, laminate your concept design sheets and put the section’s details on them to avoid mistakes. Look for consistency within each section of the book.
8) Think big. Look at your external margins: Do they match throughout the book? Look at your folios: Are they placed on the same part of the layout in every section of your book? Look at the style for your body type: Is it consistent through out the book?
9) Delegate. It is much easier to say, “I can do it myself,” especially when somebody is designing the page incorrectly. Don’t do that. The time that you spend training them now will pay off on the next deadline, and the next deadline and the next deadline. Eighty percent of the work is generally done by 20 percent of the students. Delegate.
10) Subscribe to magazines such as Premiere, Elle and Print, if you are not already doing it. Start borrowing ideas from the pros. Don’t settle for plain type. See what they’re doing and copy them. For a few dollars, you can find and adapt design ideas that cost businesses thousands.
11) Divide your deadlines into workable mini‑deadlines and stick to them, so that no one is overwhelmed. I give one‑half of a quarter grade for every mini‑deadline. If my students miss an internal deadline—for example, if they don’t get their copy or a photo order in by a certain date—they automatically lose one‑half of a quarter grade. If they miss a final deadline, they automatically lose a quarter grade.
12) Buy or make a huge calendar and hang it on the wall. Write everything important on it. The first thing to put down is all the staff members’ birthdays for that month. You must celebrate every birthday. We require the person who had the last birthday to bring cake, cookies or doughnuts for the next birthday.
If you don’t have time to write everything on the calendar, remember to delegate. An editor “wannabe” is someone who wants to grow up and be editor some day. Find the most logical editor wannabe, hand over the calendar and ask that person to write all the important things that need to take place during the month. If the adviser and the editor in chief don’t have time to keep track of all those details, the editor wannabe can do it. Give that responsibility to that person. He will be thrilled.
13) If you don’t have a room, confiscate one. If you don’t have a spot that is your yearbook place, grab a corner and tell everyone that it’s hands off, stay out, don’t cross this dotted yellow line.
The yearbook needs a territory in your school. You should fight to get one, if you do not have one already. Push the right buttons in the school. Be insistent: you cannot put out quality work without a place of your own.
14) Develop a staff manual. A staff manual is a notebook that includes a list of everybody’s name on staff and their phone numbers, a list of everyone’s job description, basic layout terms, requirements for each section of the book and the names of the members of the editorial board of directors.
15) Make your yearbook office your second home. I bought a microwave oven out of yearbook funds. It cost $89.00. They’ve popped more popcorn in it than I can stand. We also just purchased a stereo.
We have a wall of fame of all the seniors. We have their picture taken, and they stay up for three years. They know when people walk in the room that they are there and they’re important.
Lastly, we have a refrigerator to store film (and sometimes lunches).
16) Make an accurate ladder and stick to it. Let the staff know what it is. That early organization will make all the difference later.
17) Color code each section of your book. We always make sports pink because my male sports editors hate it. The check‑off sheets are pink. The computer disks are colored pink. The shelf in the office is pink. Every handout that goes to sports is pink.
Everything is color coded. Every student activity is blue. Everything from the senior section is green. I don’t know if your room has papers everywhere, but mine does. At least when my students lose something, they know to look for the pink papers or the blue papers; they don’t have to wade through the white ones all day long.
18) Have a sign‑up sheet, if you have a class, and enforce it. Make the people on your staff know that you care where they are when they’re supposed to be in your yearbook class.
Advisers, at the beginning of the period, stand in your doorway and greet every member of your class as he comes in. Make every member of your class feel important.
I had to start doing that in the last couple of years because with 43 class members in one period, I sometimes didn’t know who had been in my class that day. I had not asked them how they had been the night before, or how the wrestling match or play practice had gone.
19) Reserve the last five minutes of every day just for editors. If you’re a section editor, make a list of everything you need to accomplish the next day. You can post that list on the wall so that people coming in all day know what they are supposed to do. Keep that list updated, and have a check‑off sheet for every deadline.
20) Nothing irreplaceable should ever leave the classroom. Do not take mug shots out of the room: they will get lost. Don’t take anything out that you cannot afford to lose. Backpacks get stolen. Lockers get rifled. Everything must be stored in the yearbook office.
21) Butter up the right people. The secretaries and aides are the most important people in the school—they run it. Butter up the activities secretary, the principal’s office secretary, the main secretaries in the school.
I bake cookies for three secretaries. Because of this, I have never had to wait in line to use the photocopy machine. They have gained ten pounds—but it has worked.
Thank everyone who does anything for you. I think every staff should have about 100 sheets of “Thank you” stationery. When someone does something for us, we write them a note to say, “Thank you for taking the time to let me interview you. It meant a lot and it added to my story, ” and put it in the person’s box.
When the secretary tips you off that something special is going to happen, just write, ” It made a lot of difference that you let us know that this was going to happen. Now we’ve got a picture that will go in the book. Check page 32 when the book comes out.” And sign your name.
Your yearbook representative helps you. The person who saves your life, along with your yearbook rep, is the secretary at the yearbook plant. Send him a Christmas card or a bouquet of flowers. Let him know you appreciate what he is doing.
22) Money: How many of you pay for selling ads in the yearbook? I pay ten percent commission to my students. They are professionals doing a professional service. They feel much better about being told ” no ” 300 times to get those 40 “yeses, ” because of that ten percent.
But I have some stipulations. The entire class must sell $3,000 worth of business ads—not senior ads. They have a three‑week period in which they can do it, and if they’re not done by then, nobody gets any money at all. Peer pressure really works here.
I pay them the day before Christmas vacation in $1.00 bills.
I also ask each student to complete a hit list. I have him write down the name of every business with which he thinks he has a better connection than anybody else in the class. This student is the only one who can sell to those people. If somebody else sells to a business that’s on that person’s hit list, the person who wrote down the hit list gets the commission anyway. That keeps my staff honest.
23) Once more, work on staff morale. I take the students’ picture the first day of class, and get double prints. I don’t tell them why. My returnees know why I take the pictures, so they do the weirdest things in them. Why do we have two prints? The students find out a week and a half before Christmas vacation. We get out construction paper, glitter, scissors and those pictures, and I bring in a Christmas tree. Then they make ornaments out of their pictures.
Tell them they’re special. Every single week, we have a staffer of the week. We decorate a little piece of construction paper, put that picture in the middle and stick it up. We try to think of something that person has done well, so we can put his picture up on the wall: “Staffer of the week—did the best job of putting photo labels on pictures.”
24) Use photo, copy and layout credits. This is your portfolio, so you need to tell the world that you did this. Also, when someone comes to me and says, “You spelled my name wrong,” I can say, ” Look at the bottom of the page. Talk to him. Talk to her.”
25) Add a colophon to your book if you don’t already have one. A colophon is just professional printer information and other information that will help someone else design a book that looks like yours— the ultimate compliment.
26) Recruit. If you’re having trouble getting staff members, recruit through the National Honor Society with a form letter that doesn’t look like a form letter. Change the name with each one: “We have heard so much about you. Your reputation as a scholar has exceeded all expectations. Why don’t you think about using those talents on the yearbook staff? We could use you.”
27) Make friends from rival schools. Promise to exchange Halloween cards, Thanksgiving cards, Christmas cards and yearbooks at the end of the year. When you start thinking that you can’t get it done, think that if they are doing it, you can do it. You will all do a bit better.
28) One last thing: Never go for awards at the expense of your readers. I believe in awards. I love getting them. At the same time, if the students hadn’t also liked the book, I wouldn’t have done it. Knowing that they liked the book is undoubtedly the best reward .
Kathy Daly has advised The Trail yearbook at Overland High School, Aurora, CO, since 1985. During that time, the yearbook has won Gold and Silver Crown awards and Medalist ratings from CSPA.