April 19, 1996 / Spring 1996 / Staff Management


Written by Dick Johns

What’s Next?

The last deadline has been met and the staff and adviser breathe a big sigh of relief. Some members of the yearbook staff may think the yearbook lab class just became an extra study hall and now there will be time to catch up on other classes. But, there are almost two months of the school year left.

Those last few weeks can be a valuable portion of time to help with the organizational aspects that are so important to the success of yearbook production. The development of an organizational system and the fine-tuning of that system is a critical ingredient in helping to maintain everyone’s sanity and well-being: from that of the adviser and editor-in-chief to the staff and section reporters.

Create a Staff Manual
Organization in yearbook production includes an outlined staff flow chart, specific job descriptions for every staff position (including the adviser), an editorial policy, the theme development concept, a ladder for the yearbook, a style and typographical sheet or manual, major plant deadlines to be met, story ideas, design ideas, unique type treatments, graphic ideas, and four or five goals for the new yearbook that have been agreed upon by the staff and adviser. All of the preceding elements are part of a staff manual that is an important working communication tool for the staff and adviser. If the yearbook staff does not have a staff manual, this would be an excellent time to divide the sections of a staff manual among the students and have them begin to assemble the content.

One element of the staff manual that needs to be reviewed each year is a section on the specific job descriptions for each staff position. Have each current staff member review his or her current job description and make recommendations for improvements or changes.

After getting input from all of the current staff members about their staff responsibilities, take the suggestions and rewrite the job descriptions before making staff position applications available for next year’s yearbook. When students apply for the yearbook staff positions, it is important to have copies of the revised job descriptions available along with the staff application forms in order to help provide background information about the requirements and expectations of each position.

As part of the review and evaluation of the present staff structure and job descriptions, it may be necessary to create new positions. Some positions may need to be divided into two separate, specific jobs that are more manageable. In addition, while working with new technology and computer software it might become apparent that other managerial positions and responsibilities are needed as well.

Attend Summer Workshops
Once the new staff has been named for the next school year it is important to begin the process of brainstorming and preparing for the next yearbook to be produced. One of the goals for the new staff can be to send as many staff members as possible to a yearbook workshop during the summer.

Have the staff members compile a list of all the workshops they would like to consider attending, and then make certain that registration forms and information brochures are available from each of those workshops. The dates of the workshops, the costs involved, the location, and content of the workshops can all be important factors in making decisions about who can attend which workshop.

Develop Resource Notebooks
In preparation for the summer workshop experience it would be helpful and resourceful to have each new staff member compile an idea notebook. This idea notebook should include story possibilities, design ideas and unique type treatments, as well as catchy headline formats and graphic ideas. These design and typographic ideas can be clipped from magazines and other professionally designed publications. These resource notebooks, chocked full of great ideas, can be of tremendous assistance in making decisions about theme development packages as well as coverage and style aspects of the yearbook.

The resource notebooks can also be helpful to section editors in developing a design and typographical style for their portion of the yearbook. The design style should include a specific column format, headline design style, and specific typographical treatment for the copy and captions.

Present Mini-Workshops
Consider using mini-workshops during the remaining weeks of the current school year to provide the staff with a good, fundamental background about a theme for the next yearbook, as well as cover design possibilities and division page design ideas. Using the graduating senior staff members as instructors for these yearbook concepts can be helpful. Give these seniors the responsibility to help provide an excellent foundation for the yearbook to follow the one they have just completed.

Focusing on this type of instruction several months before the summer workshop can help new staff members gain more from the workshop experience. As a part of this process why not consider having each candidate for the editor-in-chief position submit a theme development idea package that contains a cover design, endsheets, title page, opening spread, and division pages design?

If several candidates apply for the editor-in-chief position there will be a good supply of design idea packages to be utilized in developing the plans for the new yearbook. The design package selected does not necessarily have to be the one compiled by the student selected for the editor-in-chief position.

Figure Finances
In order to produce a yearbook it is important to have adequate finances, and a part of those finances comes from selling advertisements. In preparation for the next yearbook it would be extremely helpful for the new staff members, as well those staff members who are graduating, to take a close look at the advertising campaign for the current year.

What worked well? What did not work and why? Who did not advertise this year? What new businesses have opened since the last advertising campaign took place? Will the advertising rate need to be changed? Have all of the advertisements in this year’s book been paid in full? Have thank-you letters been written and mailed to all businesses and patrons for advertising in this year’s book? Will there be any need to change the various size formats for the advertisements? Will the staff continue to use the traditional full-page, half-page, quarter-page and eighth-page size advertisements?

One aspect that should be considered in selling advertisements is the fact that the new yearbook staff may have some special goals or ideas that they would like to achieve. One example of a staff goal could be to expand the number of four-color pages in the book. This would require income from additional advertising pages in the book. Therefore, a new advertising sales goal can be established in order to provide the financial support for those additional four-color pages.

If the advertising manager and/or business manager maintained an advertising prospect card file, it will probably be helpful to work through that file to update the information and to clean out any dead wood for the current year. If new businesses have opened it is important to make a prospect card for each new business. Have the staff check with the local Chamber of Commerce to find out what record they have of new businesses in the community. Do not just work from second-hand information or a staff member’s comment that relates, “I saw this new restaurant on Main Street last week.” The prospect card contains information such as the business name, address, telephone number, business hours, owner’s name, and best time or times to contact the owner.

Develop a Logo and Theme
Is there a logo that can be designed to tie in with the theme for the new yearbook? Have a competition among the staff for the design of a new logo to be used. Reward the student whose logo is selected with an appropriate prize. Once the logo has been selected consider producing t-shirts with the logo on them that can be used to promote staff unity and pride, as well as advertising the new yearbook throughout the school and community.

When staff members begin their advertising campaign have everyone wear staff t-shirts with the yearbook logo. The logo can also be used on the advertising contract forms, letterhead stationery, memo pads, assignment sheets, etc. With the use of desktop publishing, there are a lot of possibilities to provide logo unity, but be careful not to overdo the concept.

Now is a great time to clean the yearbook room. Have staff members divide into teams that focus on the various areas of the production process: 1) copy; 2) design and layout; 3) graphics; 4) photography; 5) business; and 6) computers. Concentrate efforts in taking stock of what materials remain on hand. What items can be discarded? What materials need to be filed for historical records (photos in particular)? What equipment needs to be replaced or repaired? What computer software updates are needed?

In the process of cleaning and taking inventory, have the staff members who will have specific job responsibilities in the various sections of the yearbook evaluate the information forms that were used in their sections and suggest changes or additions needed in those forms.

Sell Duplicate Photos
As the staff sorts through the various materials and forms, they should pay particular attention to the number of photographs that were not used in the production of the book. Organize these photos, as well as those returned from your printer, and have a photograph sale. It is amazing how many photos will be available for sale, as well as the additional amount of money that can be raised from such an activity. Do not overlook those special photos that should be filed for historical records rather than being sold. If time allows, additional copies of some photos could be printed and sold for extra revenue.

Wise use of the remaining time in the school year, following the completion of the current yearbook, can pay big dividends.

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Dick Johns