Location, Location, Location

This is the successful real estate investor’s mantra, and it also applies in many successful communications campaigns.

We were in Oklahoma when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in support of Hobby Lobby’s policy denying health insurance coverage for certain types of contraceptives on religious grounds. The response here – in the “buckle of the Bible belt” – is much different than the reaction in California.

The local paper, the Daily Oklahoman, headlined the story as a “win” for Oklahoma City-based retailer. It also editorialized in favor of the ruling and reported on others who were in court seeking the same exemption. People are still shopping in the Hobby Lobby stores and, while there has been some vocal opposition, it seems somewhat muted.

No doubt, some customers will choose to shop elsewhere. But the company’s stores are located in the Midwest and the South, home to millions of conservative Christians and Catholics, who likely will choose Hobby Lobby over Michael’s or other similar retailers because of the company’s stance.

The bottom line: Location can make a difference in your message. One of the first aspects of a good communications plans is defining your audiences, and audiences’ values and priorities can change from one part of the country or the world to the next.

As evidence look to today’s story about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to remain mum on the Hobby Lobby ruling. His presidential aspirations preclude a statement in opposition to the decision because he needs to win votes in the Bible Belt. Speaking up in support of the decision could cost him votes among women and would place him at odds with more moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats in places like California.

As our friend, reporter Mark Barabak, notes in his report, staying mum will be a challenge with reporters and partisans on both sides looking to Christie to take a position on this hot-button issue. But in today’s 24/7 news cycle, hot-button issues can fade, and Christie may get a pass as voters’ focuses turn to other pressing matters.

Footnote: The media always gets a bad rap for its coverage of religion. But this time around, it’s getting some favorable reviews for getting this story right. Bobby Ross Jr., a blogger who writes about the media’s coverage of religion, filed this post saying most of the mainstream media got it right. Of course, the blogosphere is a different story.

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