Every year around this time advisers look for new materials and ideas for recruiting. With dual enrollment, AP classes, and online courses taking over, students do not have as much time to enroll in as many electives as in the past. Not to mention all the extracurricular activities, jobs and relationships. It seems the kids we used to try to recruit are already booked up. With so many choices, advisers have to sell journalism, and there is a lot of competition.
So how do we get kids to want to be part of the biggest group project in the school?
We ask ourselves this question every year. Unfortunately, it’s like weight loss, there is no immediate resolution. While we are obviously concerned with making the numbers for the next school year, we also need to look beyond next year and lay the groundwork for years to come.
Go beyond the type of kid we think we want. Take each of the skills that are needed in the class and look for kids that can do at least one of those things. Every student is looking for a home and a way to fit in. Let’s find a home for them in the yearbook room.
IN THE NOW
We need to get kids registered for this class now so there will be a class. This is especially hard when even the kids who love yearbook are stressed out with deadlines and questioning if they want to return.
Focus on the positive. Give your current students a voice and create testimonials. This year’s staffers can be your best recruiters. Find out what their favorite things about being on staff are and use their words to create recruiting materials. Ask current staffers to recommend people they think would be good (they also usually know who wouldn’t be so great).
Ask teachers for recommendations. Go beyond honors and AP classes. Ask marketing teachers, photography teachers, business teachers, coaches for students with specific skillsets from their courses who they would recommend. Tailor your message to each of these teachers so it speaks to their specific content and what you are looking for.
Compile the names of all the kids who have been recommended. Send them a note that says they have been recommended to join journalism and you would like to invite them to a pizza party during lunch to learn more about being part of the yearbook team. Introduce them early to the concept of food as a staff motivator.
At the party, allow your kids to do the talking and presenting. It is a student-run organization, so let them run the recruiting. Make it informative and fun, focus on the positive and the benefits. Make them want to be a part of this special group.
Emphasize the skills that they will take away from being in the class, not the product. Use this list of skills to reach out to the guidance counselors and parents.
In addition, host an open house during your yearbook and journalism classes, invite guidance counselors, admin and other teachers to see what the kids do. Let them see first-hand the excitement and energy that goes on in the publications lab.
IN THE KNOW
Provide specific job descriptions. Kids want to know how and where they fit in. I think part of the problem is that we just want them to join the yearbook staff, but they have no idea what that entails, or they have misconceptions.
Supply the answers as to WHY someone would want to be on staff. We have to appeal to those who would have never considered themselves in this role. What will they get out of being involved? What is their motivation? Grades? Social? Something fun? Graduation? How do we appeal to all types of students?
IN THE FUTURE
Recruiting is not just something that happens in the spring. It is ongoing. If the publication has a bad reputation or collectively the course is known for being a lot of work and the teacher is mean, then recruiting is always going to be a problem.
Just as corporations offer benefits to recruit the best talent, look into other benefits you can offer. Things like weighted credit for editors, community service hours for working after school, other perks like passes to games and special privileges. Letter jackets and school-wide recognition. Resume builders. Networking with professionals. Career and Technical Education credit, art credit, marketing credit. InDesign/Photoshop certification. The skills they are learning naturally apply to a variety of areas.
Be visible throughout the year. Celebrate success! When the staff makes a deadline, publicize it. Announce a staffer of the week. Post a photo of the month. Get involved in school-wide activities like homecoming, talent shows, and other contests and activities. Act and think like a team. Use social media to promote what you are doing and why you are doing it. Get the staff to collaborate on a community service activity throughout the year.
The funny thing is that this stuff doesn’t just help with recruiting it helps make the year better.
MAKE IT A BIG DEAL
Start a fun tradition when the staff is announced. Tell teachers and admin. Deliver a balloon or a rose (a la The Bachelor) to those on staff. Make them feel like they are part of something special. The other kids in the school will see it and want to be part of the “in crowd.”