Recruiting Yearbook Staff: A Getting Started Guide for Yearbook Advisors

filling out a yearbook staff application

Much like creating a yearbook, recruiting and running a yearbook staff requires a bit of planning. The easiest and fastest way to get started, though, is to answer two simple questions:

  1. Why should students join your yearbook staff?
  2. What are your goals for the yearbook?

Answering these questions will help you shape your recruiting efforts and structure your yearbook staff. And don’t worry: We’re not going to spend the entire post talking about these questions; we’re going to talk instead about how answering these questions will make your yearbook staff planning far more effective.

So, read on. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a yearbook club or a yearbook class, we’ll show you how to use the answers to these questions to get your team up and running.

After all, before you start deciding how your students are going to market the heck out of your yearbook, design great spreads, and beat every deadline you can throw at them, you need to have a yearbook staff in place.

Why should students join your yearbook staff?

So, why join yearbook? It’s a pretty straightforward question, really, and it’s one you might even be tossing back to your students on a yearbook staff application form.

But here’s the thing: Because you’re asking yourself (and not your students) this question, you have an opportunity to shape your yearbook class or yearbook club before anyone even signs up. It’s your opportunity to align your recruiting with your yearbook program’s goals.

Let’s take a look at some potential reasons for joining a yearbook staff, how they align with a yearbook advisor’s goals, and why they’re important to consider before diving into your recruiting efforts.

Take these three examples:

  • Express yourself creatively.
  • Get better at something you already love to do.
  • Learn career-oriented skills.

These may seem like three very similar reasons you’d use to persuade students to join your yearbook staff, but they’re actually very different. Understanding the nuances between each can help you better target and attract a specific type of student—you just need to know which type of students you need to achieve your goals.

Let’s break down each example to further explain:

  • Express yourself creatively. As reasons to join yearbook staff go, this is about as low pressure as it can get. You’re looking for students who have a creative itch and want to scratch it. They’ll be eager, no doubt about that, but you may attract a number of students who need full instruction on theme development, design theory, and following style guides. That’s not to say you won’t create a great book with your class or club; we bet you will. But some of those advanced design elements and layout techniques you’ve seen elsewhere? They may need to wait a year or two until your staff has more experience.
  • Get better at something you already love to do. You’ll still be finding those creative students who want to express themselves. Using this reason, though, you’ll be more likely to find students who are passionate about a particular discipline—like photography, writing and design—and are ready for the hands-on teaching to get better at it. These students will already understand the basics of stuff like theme development, design theory, layout techniques, and will be excited to try new, more-advanced aspects of it. You’ll be focused on getting them to the “next level” that they’re aiming for.
  • Learn career-oriented skills. Before we dive in here, we’ll admit: It’s probably tough to find enough students who are looking for career-focused instruction to fill out a yearbook staff. (If you can, though, good for you. And kudos to your students.) Students attracted to this reason are more likely to know what they want to do when they grow up. They’re focused on becoming graphic designers, photographers, and journalists. So, you’re not just going to be focused on getting them to the “next level,” you’ll be focused on teaching them the tools they need, like desktop publishing software and photo editing tools.

Notice how each example targets a different type of student?

Recruiting a mix of students is good for your yearbook staff, but it’s important that you target each type based on the type of yearbook you want to produce. Speaking of which…

What are your goals for the yearbook?

Like we mentioned earlier, knowing your goals for your yearbook class or yearbook club will help you better recruit the types of students you need to achieve your goals.

But that’s not the only reason to outline your goals before you start recruiting a yearbook staff. The idea here isn’t just to find the types of students you need; it’s also to find the types of students who will get the most out of your class or club.

Take, for example, a yearbook program that has a primary goal of “producing a book that lets students tell the story of the year while expressing themselves creatively.”

That’s a good goal. It’s specific and it’s achievable. (It even sounds fun!) But a career-oriented student probably isn’t going to get the most out of a yearbook club with that goal.

Likewise, a yearbook class with a primary goal of “producing an award-winning yearbook that teaches students how to better use professional desktop publishing and photo editing tools” probably isn’t going to appeal as much to the creative students who aren’t interested in deepening their talents and skills as it relates to journalism and desktop publishing.

But that doesn’t mean that one goal is good and the other goal isn’t. It just means that the goal and yearbook staff need to be aligned.

You need to draft your goal, determine the type of student who is going to get the most out of a class or club that has the specific goal, and work to bring those students onto your staff.

So, here’s an exercise:

  • Draft your goal for your yearbook program.
  • Be specific about what you hope the yearbook achieves, what you hope the students learn, and what you hope you’ll teach along the way.
  • Determine which character traits and goals students should have to help you achieve those goals.
  • Craft recruiting messages (based on those reasons we mentioned above) that speak primarily to those students.

It probably goes without saying, but you’ll want to avoid being exclusionary in your recruiting efforts and you’ll want to encourage all types of students to join the yearbook staff. While they might not have the exact traits you’re looking for, they’ll still have plenty to offer.

And it’s also worth noting that you may need to adjust your goals later, depending on how successful your recruiting efforts are. That’s totally normal and, frankly, a good thing to do.

When it comes to recruiting a yearbook staff, aligning your class or club goals with your students’ goals will help you better find students to join your team. It’ll make your job as an advisor easier and their job as a student more pleasant. Plus, it’ll help you create an even better yearbook.

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