“… If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.”
Any child of the 1980s will recognise these words as the opening narration of The A-team, the American television series, about a fictional group of ex–US Army Special Forces personnel. The A-Team were a crack squad, the best at what they did, and above all who you could turn to in times of trouble.
What does all this have to do with school yearbooks? Very little, except to say that when it comes to producing a school yearbook, you need to assign your own crack squad of publication professionals - your school’s A-Team.
The size and number of yearbooks your school produces will determine how many people should be involved. But a strong yearbook team will typically include:
- Yearbook Champion/Editor
- Heads of Department
Principal - your role is to set the overall direction and vision. Start with your objective for the yearbook: what do you want it to achieve? Then drill down into the messaging: what is the single most important impression the reader should take away after reading the yearbook? Then consider the tone and style. Design and visuals are essential for effective communication - what are your design preferences? This information should be captured in a communications brief. Staying true to the communications brief helps everyone avoid chopping good creative work to bits because of opinions, prejudices or other pressures that can affect our judgment. Once the direction is set and documented, you can bow out until it is time to approve the budget, design concept and sign off the final layouts.
Yearbook Champion/Editor - is responsible for the oversight and coordination of the yearbook. You are the control freak and lynchpin of the team! You will work with the Principal to understand and prepare the communications brief. As an organiser extraordinaire, you will plan the yearbook production schedule; set the deadlines; organise photoshoots; communicate to the yearbook contributors what is expected; proof read the yearbook to ensure it meets the brief, is on brand and follows your school’s style guide; and organise the printing and delivery. You are involved at all levels of the process. You are a diplomat and a great negotiator.
If the yearbook champion is a non-teaching staff member - say a member of the marketing or community relations team - it is usual to have a teaching contact/s on the yearbook team. This would usually be the Heads of Department.
Heads of Department - you are the wise and all-knowing Grand Jedi Master Yoda of the team. Your role is to help shape and guide the content from the teacher/contributors. You understand the communication objectives and will encourage and coerce the teacher contributors to keep yearbooks front of mind all year. That means taking photos throughout the year - not just the month before the content deadline! You will ensure that the teacher contributors understand their reports should tell the story of the students’ learning journey. The journey should reveal those things that set your school, teachers, and teaching approach apart from other schools. Importantly, you will support the Yearbook Champion to ensure all teacher/contributors submit their content on time.
Teacher/Contributors - you are the storyteller of the team. Your job is to condense a year’s worth of learning into five or six hundred meaningful words. Our advice is don’t try to include everything. You won’t do it justice. A better approach is to focus on two or three significant units of work and explain these in depth. Think like a parent, what would they like to read? Or better still, ask some of them. Don’t just focus on the learning outcomes, tell us about the journey and how the learnings will equip the students for life. And if you’re a Sports teacher, please don’t give us a match report for each game of the season. Save that for the school newsletter or website. Give us the highlights package; tell us how the losses contributed to camaraderie, strength of character and a commitment to do better. When it comes to photos, take lots of them, but carefully edit them prior to submitting your article. Depending on the requirements, five high resolution, distinctive photos that ‘tell your story’ are better than 20 dark, hazy group shots any day. And on the subject of submitting your content, make sure you understand what is expected of you before you start. Stick to the word count, it’s there for a reason; use the copy template if you’ve been provided with one; and submit it by the deadline. You’ll save yourself - and the Yearbook Champion - a lot of time and unnecessary grief.
Designer - you are the interpreter of the team. Your job is to interpret the communications brief and deliver a yearbook that is on brand, but visually arresting. Yearbooks are usually produced annually, so there is a danger that they can become formulaic and predictable. This applies to the copy as well, but it is more obvious visually. A good designer will challenge and push the boundaries, while retaining the key branding elements. They will also use a template (with baseline grid), have a healthy respect for ‘white space’, and reject any photos that don’t uphold the production value of the yearbook.
So there you have it, everything you need to bring your yearbook A-Team together. Next time we talk yearbooks, we’ll lead you through the planning process of setting content milestones and deadlines.
Here are some more blogs on yearbooks which might be of interest to you.
If you’re looking for more information on yearbook planning, download our free ebook, 'does your school’s yearbook make an enduring brand impression?'
If you would like to pick our brains about yearbooks, contact us today; we’d love to help.
This blog was written by Suzanne Wilcock
Suzanne Willcock is a Senior Account Manager for imageseven. She is a professional services and education marketing specialist who happens to love copywriting and blogging. She is also particularly fond of interior design magazines and home renovation shows.