Yearbook staffs struggle to go online

Student+Taylor+Hawkins+works+on+plans+for+next+year%27s+yearbook.+Her+staff+has+been+working+to+develop+a+theme+as+well+as+think+of+new+ideas+to+promote+themselves+online.

Mersadees Sampson

Student Taylor Hawkins works on plans for next year’s yearbook. Her staff has been working to develop a theme as well as think of new ideas to promote themselves online.

Mersadees Sampson, Reporter

She couldn’t quite get the hang of it. Sierra Smith’s school newspaper staff had no problem getting online and having a great presentation, but for yearbook it wasn’t as simple.

“Newspapers can more easily have their own website, but with yearbook you want to keep a lot of that discrete and disclosed until the release of the yearbook so it makes it harder to post content online,” Sierra, a senior at North Kansas City High School, said.

Yearbook staffs like Sierra’s often face conflict when it comes to creating an online presence due to the need to keep certain information confidential until their final product is published. This issue is not commonly seen on newspaper staffs because there is a constant flow of new and relevant information.

Erica Smith (unrelated to Sierra) who previously taught a social media strategy class at Lindenwood University worked with students on how to promote themselves online. Ms. Smith agreed that yearbook staffs often miss the boat when it comes to going online.

“It’s a different mindset, when you’re working with a newspaper you know that it’s daily or monthly or whatever the schedule is, with a yearbook you know you’re going into it and you have a year, so it’s harder to say ‘we need to post something this week’ when you know that it’s not really coming out for a year,” Ms. Smith said.

Newspaper staffs have the easy opportunity to keep their online readers updated year round, but on yearbook the challenge presents itself. However, online success is not impossible to achieve. Senior Ryan Liston from Free State High School is the online editor-in-chief for his school’s newspaper. He has used many tactics to achieve success in going online, and only wants to continue to improve.

“I’m hoping to set some more strict guidelines for the content we post, make sure people aren’t just posting stories with text that they have some sort of graphic or other things. Make sure there’s multimedia going up, not just stories but also videos or podcasts,” Liston said.

He believes that these same techniques can be converted to the yearbook side and increase the chances of online success. He stated that using multi-media strategies can get people more eager to get the final product of the yearbook, and ultimately lead to greater online success.

“I think yearbook could try and publish some little briefs ever so often about things that are going on – maybe soon after an event has happened yearbook could come out with a story or photo gallery and post that somewhere it’s easily accessible it could get people excited for what the full product is going to look like,” Liston said.

Many yearbook staffs struggle to promote themselves on social media sites as well. Sierra stated that her staff’s social media presence is minimal.

“We have a journalism twitter, but we share that with broadcast and newspaper, we have an Instagram which took off this past year that we’re gonna continue growing,” Sierra said.

Social media is essential to a staff’s success because it keeps their future readers engaged and excited until the final product is ready. Ms. Smith stated that when it comes to social media, it depends on the audience.

“If you’re trying to reach students maybe Snapchat, Vine, Twitter because that’s where they are. If you’re trying to reach the parents, Facebook,” Ms. Smith said.

There is no clear solution, but there are things that yearbook staffs can do to begin to build a successful online base. Multi-media, social media, briefs and teasers are all ways that yearbook staffs can go online without revealing the exciting information that will be published in their final products.

(For a slideshow of student reactions to this issue, click here.)