Three Yearbook Planning Steps Yearbook Advisors Should Take

three yearbook planning steps

Yearbook planning is a lot like being forced to eat broccoli: You know it’s good for you, and you know you should be doing it, but, gosh, it’s kinda awful when you’re in the middle of it.

As any kid will tell you, the easiest way out is to count your broccoli.

Interestingly enough, the same approach used to clear broccoli from even the most persnickety eater’s plate is also the easiest way to finish yearbook planning. You just need to know how many “pieces of broccoli” you need to eat.

And, good news here, it’s only three:

  • Assemble a Yearbook Committee
  • Build Your Yearbook Ladder
  • Set Your Production Timeline

These are, quite frankly, the only three things you need to do to not wing it for the entire year.

While we get the appeal of winging it, we also know what mid-November feels like, when page layouts and staff crises are keeping you up at night.

Also, let’s leave stress aside for a minute. If you’re a new yearbook advisor (or, heck, even a seasoned one), you know it’ll feel better to have answers to questions like: What matters? What doesn’t? Did we forget something important? Are we sure?

Yearbook planning gives you the answers to those questions, gives you back your sleepless mid-November life, and gives you a blueprint for a really amazing yearbook.

Inside this post, we’ll explore how to, and why you should, take each of the three yearbook planning steps we laid out above.

Yearbook Planning Step 1: Assemble a Yearbook Committee

Don’t get us wrong: deadlines and aesthetics are incredibly important to your yearbook’s success.

But without a capable, passionate, committed staff, neither matters a lick. Figuring out who will help on the yearbook (recruiting) and how they’re going to contribute (committee/staff structure) should be the first things you do when you sit down to plan out the year.

Recruiting Amazing Students

Traditionally, advisors have used posters to sell yearbooks. Have you ever considered useing them to attract students who might want to create yearbooks? Canvasing the school with compelling calls to action and entertaining visuals can create buzz and ensure a great turnout for your introductory meeting. This is where the killer yearbook staff application you made comes into play.

The fact of the matter is that just because students show up in droves (we’re serious, those posters really work) doesn’t mean they’ll all be committed for the whole year. An application is

Protip: save every application. You can use them to get a head start on next year (and figure out how your students’ skills have improved). The planning doesn’t stop just because this year’s book was a hit!

Structuring Your Committee

While every school is a bit different there are certain roles a yearbook staff cannot live without. Not sure what they are? We’ve got you covered:

  1. Editor in Chief
  2. Assistant Editor,
  3. Photographer(s) + Journalists
  4. Ad Salespeople
  5. Copy Editor
  6. Designers
  7. Treasurer
  8. Marketers

At a smaller school perhaps you can have your marketers become ad sales people, too. Or maybe your assistant editor would also make a phenomenal treasurer. Too many talented photographers (what a problem to have!)? See if their eyes translate to layout design.

Preparing your students for startup culture– where everyone wears ten hats– can’t hurt.

Yearbook Planning Step 2: Build Your Yearbook Ladder

A yearbook ladder is a nice—and concise—chart that represents the pages in a yearbook. Use it at the beginning of the year, and you’ll be able to better figure you your book length, prioritize all the ideas you have for sections and stories, and determine what you have room to cover. Best yet, it doubles as a visual reminder of what your book is supposed to look like when it’s done.

It’s basically one huge, visual post-it-note, and we’ve got a free template you can download right here.

Figuring Out Your Yearbook’s Length

The rule of thumb: for every 8-12 students, plan to include one page. Any more and your staff could struggle to fill the pages. Any less, and you’ll be offering a really nice cover but nothing more. Both of these scenarios lead to undue stress for you, the advisor.

Of course, every rule has its exceptions. If your school places loads of emphasis on sports and other extracurriculars, you’ll want to account for that by upping the page count. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Prioritizing What Sections and Stories to Include

Make sure you allocate your staff and budgetary resources to account for each of the sections you might want to include in this year’s book. This is especially important if you’re considering adding something new (like, say, student art or memoirs). Here are just a small sample of the kinds of sections you’ll need to plan for:

  • Senior Stuff
  • Portraits
  • Superlatives
  • Principal’s Message
  • Team & Club Pictures
  • Academics
  • Student Life
  • Essays / Art

Yearbook Planning Step 3: Set Your Production Timeline

The question that haunts everyone who has ever worked on a yearbook is this: “Are we actually going to finish on time?”

Since you’re pondering your plan so far in advance, we’re gonna get all optimistic on you and say, “Yes.” But you’re going to have to do the work to get there. One way to do that is to set yourself at least one deadline.

You might want to work in some additional deadlines, though, so that you can have check marks along the way. If that sounds like a good idea to you (and we’re not sure why it wouldn’t), start by using a yearbook planning spreadsheet with the high level deadlines that really shouldn’t change (unless something crazy happens).

Some examples:

  • When the book needs to be completed
  • When you’re cutting off new advertising
  • When your major, can’t miss events are happening
  • When you’re distributing your books to students

You can, of course, use weekly or monthly check-ins to keep track of progress in between those big dates. Check-ins are a great way to get the pulse of your committee and to learn who is really acing it and who needs a little bit of help.

Conducting those types of informal check-ins early will also give you a sense of who you need to check in with on a regular basis and who you can trust to take care of business.

By taking the necessary yearbook planning steps, you’ll have a roadmap that not only creates a stress-free year for yourself, it gives your team a better sense of what they need to do and how they’re going to make it happen. It helps everybody.

And it save you some sleep, which, clearly, makes flying by the seat of your pants is so last year.

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