September 29, 2008 / Fall 2008 / Staff Management

Habits of highly effective yearbook staffs

Written by Karen Ray

When Steven Covey penned his bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he might have visited the typical yearbook room beforehand for ideas. In many of these rooms are the most productive, creative and effective people on the planet.

This is not to say that all yearbook staffs are well-run machines. The ones that struggle may benefit from these tried-and-true methods used by highly effective yearbook staffs.

1. They are super-organized.

  • Everything has a place and everything gets put back in its place.
  • Expectations are clearly set and performance is tracked.
  • File management is a science that they have mastered. Someone is assigned to organize and maintain the filing of photos, forms and contracts.
  • Clutter is cleared and only items necessary to this year’s book are available for use.
  • Everyone knows what, when, where, why and how things are due and who is responsible for doing them.

2. They know deadlines are NOT negotiable.

  • Large deadlines are broken into many small ones, with something due almost every day.
  • Staff deadlines are set a week or two before the in-plant deadlines to ensure proper time to check everything.
  • Missed mini-deadlines result in lowered grades; numerous misses warrant removal from the staff.
  • The only pages left at the end of the year are graduation and any late-finishing sports; grades are held for those who do not finish in a timely manner.
  • Every staff member knows the consequences to the book and to them personally if a deadline is missed.

3. They look to professionals for guidance and embrace change.

  • Ideas are generated from the professional media, not other yearbooks.
  • Every year’s book should be better and different than the one before.
  • Staying abreast of trends and technology, and asking for guidance from local professionals, are priorities.
  • Working hard to become competent writers, designers, photographers and editors continues every day.

4. They understand the importance of the yearbook and strive to make it perfect.

  • Fulfilling the historical/record-keeping function of the book and knowing their responsibility to the entire community for their production is key.
  • Staffers turn in pages virtually perfect and know that proofs are the last chance to check for mistakes, not to completely redo the pages.
  • Covering everyone and every function without using the same people over and over is a main goal.
  • Reporters use spell check and district lists to ensure correct spellings; they have a system of checks and balances for each other’s potential mistakes.

5. They deal well with conflict and run the yearbook like a business.

  • Following a chain of command for conflict resolution and handling problems without adviser intervention are signs of a competent staff.
  • Setting up a budget, setting goals and keeping copious records of ad sales, book sales and fund-raisers helps them have ownership of the book.
  • Everyone knows his/her functions and job responsibilities and performs them as well as they can.
  • They reward success with great fanfare and use failures as learning experiences that propel them to better performance.

6. They become masters at marketing and selling.

  • Understanding the historical importance of the yearbook, they desire to get the book into the hands of as many people as possible and work hard to invent new ways of selling it.
  • Knowing that advertising is an important piece of the budget, they plan and execute ad sales campaigns like professionals and strive to find ways for the yearbook ads to bring noticeable business to the advertisers.
  • They use the high quality of their work to drive ad and book sales and display evidence of that quality in highly visible places in the school.
  • When they win awards and accolades for the yearbook, they toot their own horns with teachers, students, administrators and the community by writing press releases and sending photos to the appropriate media.

7. They understand that being on a yearbook staff provides some of the best life training of any class in the curriculum.

  • Planning a project and seeing it to fruition, handling conflict, troubleshooting, setting and maintaining independent work flow, meeting deadlines and working in stressful situations while maintaining professional relationships should be a part of their mind-set as they produce the yearbook.

There should be much more to producing a yearbook than simply rolling out the cameras, computers, a ladder and deadlines. Knowing and implementing a few important habits will not only aid in the production of a great yearbook, but will ensure students are trained to be highly effective adults as well.

Karen Ray

Karen Ray is a former Walsworth Yearbooks sales representative.