Fairy dust in the classroom

My yearbook editor, Laura, has always been a great writer and designer. She is, however, a "non-photographer." Or at least, she was. The other day, she picked up a camera and just blew us away with photos such as this one, of the See You at the Pole event at our school.

My yearbook editor, Laura, has always been a great writer and designer. She is, however, a “non-photographer.” Or at least, she was. The other day, she picked up a camera and just blew us away with photos such as this one, of the See You at the Pole event at our school. Magic happens!

Since I do a lot of wedding photography, I have a few photographers whose work I follow on social media. One of them is Katelyn James, a young wedding photographer out of Virginia whose work I probably follow more than any other. I clicked on her blog yesterday to find a nice piece about vocalizing your dreams. See her blog here: http://katelynjamesblog.com/our-dreams/

Now I know that no matter how much I vocalize, I’m probably never going to run into Tom Petty in a smoky bar and sing a couple of songs with him. I don’t ever go into smoky bars! And I know most people find Nicolas Cage a little odd looking, but I think I could marry him if he asked.

I’m probably not going to hit the lottery either. But that does not stop me from dreaming about how many houses I would be buying, and in what exotic faraway places.

I have no musical skill, yet I still hope to learn to play the guitar; and I can barely walk half the time, but I still maybe someday could learn to balance on a surfboard.

What I do know is that it does not hurt to have dreams. They keep you going. Verbalizing them is very important!

I like think about the many things that people told me I could not do, and how many times I have proved others wrong. Yes, I did drive across the country in a very old car one year, breaking down three times along the way. Yet staying the course we were able to see nearly half of the States in 30 days, on a budget. The following year I drove to New England and broke down a few more times. Yet again, we got through it and saw what we wanted to see.

I sold the car to my father after that, though. Lucky him, I had already replaced everything so he never had a single issue with it! Nobody ever told that car what it could and couldn’t do either. It defies all odds and still runs today. My son drives it. That car is older than my son!

I don’t know many people who would not panic at the feats that somehow are achieved in my classroom. With two working computers and a lot of fundraising, we manage to produce a great yearbook every year for our school. I am sure you might have heard the expression “Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-o to a tree.” This is a fairly adequate description, yet somehow I have a class full of teenagers who defy the odds and perform what is next to impossible every year. We are raising (and spending) about $35k.

So, the reason that I’m telling you all of this?

Because, guess what? Things really do work out. How this happens is, of course, a lot of planning. But there is no way that planning is everything. I believe that there is a little bit of fairy dust getting sprinkled in my classroom.

Success happens with tons of hard work…

And a little magic.

Keep that in mind when you start doubting yourself!

Nicolas Cage, I love you! Do you want to learn to surf together?

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The four P’s of marketing

One of the best marketing lessons I ever learned was so very much by accident that I just really must tell you the whole story.

I had just arrived at the hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina after a L-O-N-G bus ride from Florida that began at the crack of dawn. I was in Charlotte with a few yearbook students to tour the Charlotte Herff Jones yearbook plant.

We had about an hour before we were leaving to go to dinner and I was so tired! I thought I would take a little cat nap. When I am in a hotel, I almost always find that the Weather Channel is a great sleep-inducer. That Allman Brothers song that they play as they are showing the weather radar across the country is just very soothing to me. (Weather Channel and Allman Brothers, please do not take offense).

On this particular day, though, I never made it to the Weather Channel. I instead landed on PBS. At the time I had no idea what the name of the show was, but it seemed to be a kid’s show. And it was about marketing! Later I found out that the name of the show is Biz Kid$ (http://bizkids.com/show). I’ve watched many episodes since then, and many, many of the episodes provide valuable information that would benefit a yearbook staff.

This particular episode on marketing focused on the four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.  To be honest, this is about all I really know about marketing. But it is also really about all anyone really NEEDS to know.

Product: Are you creating a yearbook your customers (the students) want to buy? If not, how can you make them want it? My answer to this is almost always coverage.

Price: Is the yearbook priced right? When you offer it on sale, is the difference in price significant enough to make customers act? We offer a coupon at the beginning of the year. These days, people go crazy for coupons. We sell nearly ALL of our books during our coupon sale.

Here's our 2014 coupon, just one part of our yearbook marketing strategy.

Placement: Do your customers know where to go to buy the yearbook? Establish a location and always offer it at that location. Make sure your yearbook is visible throughout the school though. The best “place” for the yearbook to really be is in the minds of everyone, every day.

Promotion: How are you letting your customers know about the yearbook? If you are only hanging signs, that is not enough. If you are only putting it on the morning announcements, that is not enough. Promote your yearbook everywhere you can. Make it visible, not only from the minute somebody walks onto your campus, but also in the community. Even if your staff is not allowed to have a Facebook, staff members can still post, Tweet and create a buzz on all the social media sites.

After the yearbook is finished and we have compiled a complete index, We create a sign with the names of all the students who are in the book three or more time and have yet to purchase it. The sign gets a lot of attention in the hallway.

After the yearbook is finished and we have compiled a complete index, We create a sign with the names of all the students who are in the book three or more time and have yet to purchase it. The sign gets a lot of attention in the hallway.

A yearbook can’t be successful unless people know it exists. It can be full of the most gorgeous images and the most awe-inspiring writing and design. Market it!

We then follow up with a postcard to let students know what pages they're on.

We then follow up with a postcard to let students know what pages they’re on.