Chris Baker
Chris Baker
During annual Catholic Media Conferences, master camps allow participants to dive deeper than the usual workshop, forming advanced skills.

The 2022 conference in Portland will take up two of the most pressing issues for Catholic communicators — burnout and evangelizing effectively in the digital space.

Master camps, which last four hours, are set for Tuesday, July 5, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 2 – 4 p.m. Parish and school communicators are welcome to register for the conference.

‘Caught broadside’

Thomas Plante, a psychologist who leads the Applied Spirituality Institute at Santa Clara University, leads a master camp on ways to avoid burnout.

“While stress is an issue for just about everyone during these very challenging and rather apocalyptic times, communicators in the Catholic media world certainly have their own unique type of stress and risks for burnout,” Plante said. “I hope to outline the unique stressors for these professionals and offer strategies for more effective coping that includes tools for your stress management toolbox.”

Plante, also an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, recently served as vice-chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited 23 books and has evaluated or treated more than 900 clerics or clerical applicants in his Menlo Park private practice including numerous sex abuse victims and offenders. Time Magazine referred to him in a 2002 cover story as one of “three leading (American) Catholics.”

“Certainly journalism is in a major transition moving from print to digital outlets and dealing with the challenges associated with everyone having a voice in the world of social media,” said Plante. “Additionally, there are many stressors and threats that since they are new many professionals may not have adequately adjusted to being caught broadside. Media in the Catholic press have very unique and significant stressors including the challenges with the Catholic brand after so many scandals within the church as well as so many church leaders acting poorly.”

Having seen patients from the Catholic world for four decades, Plante has observed a case or two of stress.

One of his personal strategies for coping is running every morning, which he has done daily since 1976. He also has a small home vineyard with about 100 syrah vines and a family label at a local winery.

Plante and his wife, also a psychologist, have been together for 40 years. They enjoy food and wine. She cooks and he cleans up.

Plante grew up in Rhode Island and has the Boston Red Sox in his DNA. Being a Red Sox fan is akin to a religion, he explained.

Storytelling not enough

Chris Baker leads a master camp on digital marketing. He’ll offer methods to drive traffic and build growth online and teach participants how to use Facebook and Instagram ads to boost website visits, increase sign-ups for events and promote video content.

Baker, former video chief for the Archdiocese of Washington, was tapped to produce content during a consistory in Rome, a eucharistic pilgrimage in Dublin and a papal visit in Washington, D.C. Now he owns a company that helps Catholic organizations and dioceses achieve growth on their social and digital platforms.

“I used to think good storytelling, organic social media posting and well-crafted and planned video content was good enough,” said Baker. “Then one day I saw a ‘Star Wars’ trailer ad on YouTube and it stopped me in my tracks. If they, master storytellers with a proven track record of success, need to promote their video content and drive traffic to their website, then shouldn’t I be doing that as well?”

Baker explained that church organizations need to be savvy since the digital market is saturated. “Organizations need to know their specific target audience (demographics, interests, behaviors online) and work to target them directly,” he said.

About 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

“How do viewers find your channel?” Baker asked. “How do they realize they are actually interested in and would like to subscribe to your channel with all of the other content YouTube is suggesting to them? Optimization and running ads are what I have found works to break through and be seen and heard.”

At the Archdiocese of Washington, Baker and his team gauged terms that get many searches on Google, finding that people are quite curious about confession. The result was an instructional video on how to take part in the sacrament.

After one woman watched and commented, Baker started a conversation. She eventually came back to the sacrament. Baker was even able to find her a ticket to attend a papal Mass with Pope Francis. There were tears of joy.

Now living in Florida, Baker surfs, enjoying when dolphins ride next to him. He is reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's complete Sherlock Holmes series, J.R.R. Tolkien's the “Return of the King” and John Eldredge's “Wild at Heart.”

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