Trade secrets for yearbook organization

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Several advisers were asked to send us their favorite trade secrets for organization. Trello was named most often.

In addition to Trello, here are tips that help advisers keep some aspect of their yearbook program organized. You may want to try one or two as you organize or update your classroom or procedures over the summer. Thanks to Marne Hade of Northwest High School in Jackson, Michigan, for this article idea.

Help From Counselors

Emily ArnoldEmily Arnold, CJE – Haltom High School, Haltom City, Texas

My editors meet each day during their off period, which is also my conference period. I can thank my lead counselor for making that scheduling happen! When the editors meet, they update Trello cards, plan staff meetings, identify production still needed for the next day and complete personal assignments so that they run class each day and are available to work with staffers.

Another tip about counselors to help with organizing recruiting: I also like to meet with my counselors prior to student registration for the upcoming year in person to give them handouts to help students understand everything about the student media classes. I even send this info to our feeder middle school counselors.

It’s tough when a student signs up for J1 thinking it is a creative writing class, so open communication with counselors is key. That and chocolate!

Kathy BeersCamera Coding

Kathy Beers – Timber Creek High School, Fort Worth, Texas

Each of our cameras has a special color code. Using pieces of colorful gaffers tape that we borrow from the theatre department, we label every strap, lens, battery, charger and case.

The camera bags each have a bright and fun luggage tag on them. Then the tape matches the tag on each piece – Orange Tiger bag matches all the orange pieces, Pink Owl tag matches all the pink pieces.

Also, each photographer has their own SD card. If it gets erased it’s their responsibility. We keep them in a plastic jewelry holder, the kind that you hang up with the hangers in your closet. Each staffer has a pocket with their name in it.

Jessica YoungPhoto Organization

Jessica Young, MJE – Orange Glen High School, Escondido, California

Batch rename photos! Adobe Bridge will allow you to do this. It’s a fabulous way to organize all photos.


Crystal Kazmierski – Arrowhead Christian Academy, Redlands, California

Crystal KWe print out pages as large spreads, and fold in half at the gutter so the pages are left and right as they will be printed. We staple a proofing sheet on the outside with everything we want proofed (Are there folios present? Oxford commas removed? Names checked for spelling? Whatever the things are that you want checked on each page in addition to normal spelling and readability issues).

Proofreaders ring the bell if they find a mistake. At least five people initial each cover sheet to show that they have all read the pages. We print out a new copy and staple them over the old pages so that we can lift them up and see the previous changes along the way. Sometimes they are 10 pages thick. We keep doing this until they come up “clean.”

Scheduling One-on-one Time

Amy HayesAmy Hayes – Guerin Catholic High School, Noblesville, Indiana

Since we don’t have a class for yearbook, we do a lot online, but students write better stories when we are able to conference in person. We’ve tried numerous ways to make setting up meetings easier but the best so far has been to use an easy signup website.

We use SignUpGenius, but any site will do. It gives students a link to go to and put their name down for a 10-minute window and lets me know when students are coming in so that I don’t overbook anyone.

Using Social Media

Rachel RauchRachel Rauch, CJE – Homestead High School, Mequon, Wisconsin

  • Create a social media policy based on your mission.
  • Do goal setting as a staff. Post your accounts in a visible area and track goals to increase followers.
  • Increase scope of coverage by giving staffers a grade for covering events.
  • Create a school or event hashtag. Encourage people to post photos using this hashtag. Then you can search for the photos and use them in your book. You can also use Storify to archive the event.
  • Use social media for behind-the-scenes or promotional coverage. Parents love to see what’s happening at school. If you have a large parent following, it’s also a great place to share important information.
  • Retweet or share other people’s information, and they will do the same for you. This will broaden your
    audience and increase engagement.
  • Post useful content. If people value your content, they will follow you.
  • Watch how other schools are using social media to get ideas.

Senior Ad Design Night

Stefani RussStefani Russ, CJE – Raymore-Peculiar High School, Peculiar, Missouri

I used to have a tough time organizing senior ads…. Three years ago we started hosting design nights. Our parents make a 30-minute appointment with one of our designers. They bring their pictures, copy and ideas. We are able to scan and design everything alongside the parents. The parents are able to give us a final approval and payment before they walk out the door.

Our ad quality improved tremendously, the parents love the process, and the kids love the praise from the parents. Our ad sales have more than tripled from when we started. I never worry about overlooking an ad or losing a parent’s most treasured baby photo. It has been a win-win for all!

Use the Walls

Michael DanielsonMichael Danielson – Seattle Preparatory School, Seattle, Washington

Above the computers, we have “cheat sheets” on the wall that have all the font and paragraph styles for our design elements. This handy reference tool helps to keep page design consistent. We have an “Idea Wall” with cool layouts from magazines. When we get stuck or need some inspiration, students can take a look at adapting a mag layout.

We also have a whiteboard ladder with all pages, deadlines and assignments. It is color coded according to deadline. A green dot means those pages have been built. The signature grid is painted on/permanent so we can easily erase the whiteboard each summer after the yearbook is done.

Crates and Folders

Brit TaylorBrit Taylor, CJE – Hagerty High School, Oviedo, Florida

Our go-to organizational strategy this year is the deadline crate. Each spread gets a folder, which is not new, but this year we are using hanging file folders in bright orange crates – the crates that have the side lips to hang folders, of course! The current deadline sits out on our main table, and once it gets past the initial proof process (when it’s nearly complete), the files will go back into the file cabinet. The plan is to have no more than three crates on the table at once… we’ll see how that works.

Inside each folder, staffers have to keep every piece of paper related to the spread: photo assignments (small pink slips), rough drafts with edits, interviews, and the most important: the spread checklist (everything gets checked off and initialed by our various editors). Keeping the folder organized is a challenge for some (it should be chronological with most recent printouts on top/in front), but having an editor overseeing the crate (could be the editor of that section too, if you do it that way) is key!

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.