Photo by: Anastasia Martinez

April 21, 2020 / Staff Management

2020 Yearbook Distribution: It’s Going to Look a Little Different

Written by Jenica Hallman, CJE

Yearbook distribution day is the day yearbookers look forward to all year. Even though your initial distribution plans may have been thwarted this year by COVID-19, there’s no need to worry! You will have to make some changes, but your distribution can still be wildly successful! Necessity produces creativity. While we’ll talk largely about spring delivery schools, this can still apply to summer or fall delivery schools too.

First things first – take a deep breath. We know the past few months have been stressful. If you’re a planner (we both know that you are), you like to be in control and have a perfect plan for everything. You’re going to have to accept that control has been snatched out of your hands and you’re not likely to get it back. It’s going to be okay though, and we are going to get through this. The good news is there are practical steps you can take now to create a smooth, successful and fun yearbook distribution.

The yearbook is going to be such an important way to remember the entire school year. When we look back at 2020, it’s going to be easy for everyone to only remember COVID-19. But you know there was so much more to the year. The yearbook chronicled it for the future, and all students should have a copy chronicling this year. Be prepared to sell your copies both before your distribution event and during it.

Where Do I Start?

Before you go too gung-ho on planning an epic party, talk to your administration. We can’t stress the importance of this enough. You need to find out what resources you have, what’s allowed and obtain permission for your plans. Having the administration on your side will go a long way in creating a smooth and successful distribution.

Where are the books going?

With many schools closed, some through the end of the school year, it’s important to figure out where to have the books delivered and stored. Ideally, you can work with the administration to allow the books to still be delivered and stored at the school, but you need to talk to them about it.

Be careful if you’re thinking about accepting and storing the yearbooks yourself. If you did, you would be taking on the liability for all the books, and you do not want that liability. We’ve heard suggestions of a storage unit or delivering to a district facility. The important thing is to talk to your administration about any option and the liabilities associated with it before you make any decisions.

What means of school communication are available?

Your school is used to reaching out to students and parents and, in fact, so are you. You have used many of these ways to advertise yearbook sales. Discuss what you can do now.

  • If the school is sending out an email update to parents, see if you can add a line item about yearbook distribution. Parents will be expecting to receive emails from the school right now about class updates for their kids, so they might be more likely to open those emails.
  • Utilize all-calls and your school’s SMS text messaging service. You may have already used them for yearbook sales – see if you can use them for yearbook distribution too.
  • Add information on your school website. Parents expect to find information on the school website, so add yearbook info in a highly visible location.
  • If you need to mail some books, talk to your school about payment options. If you collect money for this, make sure you have a school-approved method. Some districts do not allow all payment apps, and with social distancing, you are less likely to receive cash or checks.

What locations are acceptable for distribution?

You’re probably used to distributing inside the school building, but you’ll need to see if the school will allow people inside the building. They may not want to risk building contamination. If you go inside the building, you will probably need to limit travel as much as possible. If you can’t distribute in the building, some schools are considering distributing outside the building but still on school property, such as the parking lot or outside gathering place. If you or your students go inside the building, you may need to provide a detailed account of all locations you went so those areas can be properly cleaned (including rest rooms).

Getting the Word Out

You’ll want to use the methods mentioned above, but you have your own means as well. Primarily, social media. You want your social media channels to be the primary location for anyone to find information about your yearbook. Be mindful of social media that parents use too. Just because your students don’t use Facebook, that doesn’t mean you should disregard it. Parents overwhelmingly use Facebook.

Social Media

Post often and post frequently. The more your social media channels show up in newsfeeds, the more likely people are to think about going there for yearbook information. Post great previews for the yearbook to motivate students to come get the yearbook. Remind them that the yearbook is the best record of everything that happened in the year BEFORE COVID-19 took over the world. There were still a lot of great things that happened this year, and the yearbook captured it. Especially for seniors who may not have a traditional senior year with prom and graduation, the yearbook reminds them of all the positive memories #SeniorStrong2020. We have these helpful social media graphics you can download to help!

Email

You can also utilize email lists you already have. If you sell online through yearbookforever.com, all your buyers are recorded in Sales Central in Members Only, along with their provided contact information. You can download the buyers list and email them from your school’s email system so your communication is more targeted to only the people who have bought the book. You can also sort this list by grade so you could contact seniors first, and then the other grades. Walsworth has email templates available here to get you started.

Enlist Helpers

Reach out to other teachers to help you spread the word. For example, since all grades must take an English class, see if the English teachers will reach out to their students to communicate this information. Students expect to hear from their teachers, so it can be an effective way to reach students. They likely have some parent information as well. Many teacher services like the Remind: School Communication and Google Classroom to talk to their students and parents. Make use of all avenues available to you.

Contact the Media

Consider contacting local media. Your local newspaper, radio stations and/or TV stations might be willing to share information. If you do, think about partnering with other schools in your district so that they can run one story with multiple schools. It will help them have a broader reach while supporting local student journalism. We have a press release template here that you can download and customize.

Plan Your Celebration

Yearbook distribution should be a party! It’s an exciting event, even if it looks a little different this year. Don’t forget to celebrate. Go ahead and plan your party. Keep in mind, things are bound to change, but keep moving forward.

Drive-thru Distribution

Some schools are planning a drive-thru distribution. That can be a great option for distributing and selling your yearbook, but there are a few things to consider. One important consideration is how many people will be present. Groups need to remain small and keep a 6-foot distance right now. You’ll want to avoid people having to wait in a long line in close proximity. You also want to have as few people touch the yearbook as possible and wear gloves when they do. Depending on weather conditions – extreme heat or rain – ask your administration if any tents are available. They may have them from other events, and this prevents you from having to cancel for the weather. It’s always good to have a backup plan in place. Have signs, music and balloons to remind people this is a celebration and direct them where to go.

Summer or Back-to-School Distribution

Some may consider delaying distribution until later in the summer or at the back-to-school time. Registration is a common time that summer/fall schools distribute yearbooks. The 2020 freshmen, sophomores and juniors should be able to pick them up then, and it would be a great time for everyone to reminisce. That means you only need to worry about getting books out to 2020 seniors. You could consider a separate, senior-only distribution to limit the number of people coming to get the books.

There may be some rescheduled events over the summer too. One school district in our area just announced graduation has been rescheduled from May to the end of July. If your graduation, prom, a big sporting game or any other major event is rescheduled over the summer and students will come back to school for it (or to a nearby venue), it would be a great time to schedule distribution.

Scheduled Pick-Up Times

Another option is to schedule pickup times for a drive thru. There are plenty of apps you can use to schedule a pickup time. This limits the number of staff that are needed for distribution and people interacting with one another. Students or parents can even stay in their cars and just drive up to pick up the book. This allows you to have any option orders, such a namestamps, icons or book covers, ready because you will know exactly who is coming when. You can have more than one line going, perhaps at opposite ends of the parking lot, to speed up the process while maintaining distance.

Who Slipped Through the Cracks?

There are going to be some people who cannot come and get a book. That means you are left finding a way to get the book to them.

Mailing Yearbooks

If you decide to mail yearbooks, you’ll have additional cost required for envelopes, labels and mailing. Yearbooks can be heavy, so postage can add up. If you are going to mail books, consider offering this as a service available for an additional fee. Because of the amount of work involved with stuffing, addressing and mailing books, reserve this only for students unable to pick up a book.

Delivery Service

Another option is to offer a delivery service. Instacart and Doordash offer delivery services – why not the yearbook? For an additional fee, perhaps $10, the yearbook will be delivered to your door. To avoid overcommitting, you may want to limit to seniors so that as few people as possible are involved. You don’t want to be responsible for delivering 500 yearbooks, but 50 yearbooks might be manageable for one or two people to deliver over a couple days.

Homecoming

If your school has a tradition of students returning for special events like Homecoming the year after they graduate, consider setting up a table at one of these events in the fall to sell any remaining books to people who missed the chance to buy earlier. After word gets out of how great the yearbook is – everyone will want one.

Anything else?

There are plenty of great ideas, so reach out to other yearbook advisers and your Walsworth sales rep to find out what others are doing. There is no one size fits all, but you could get great ideas that work for your needs. Then be sure to share them with us! Let us know what you are planning so we can help spread your great ideas to other schools.

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Jenica Hallman, CJE
Jenica Hallman, CJE

Jenica Hallman, CJE, is an Associate Copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks. Yearbooks got into her blood in high school, and she has been pursuing them ever since. She has worked in various capacities as a high school and college yearbook editor, an adviser, sales representative, plant customer service representative and now in marketing, her favorite role to date. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass media communications from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.