My experience re: developing/distributing a media release for a property that's for sale

Updated: Apr 6

I'd prefer to sell privately, and importantly, I have the time to do so.

Generating a media release is not a standard technique in real estate marketing, but then neither is my property standard or typical. As a consequence I thought I'd give marketing a try using one or more different techniques.

In a previous job in Sydney I had worked a little with a company called MediaNet. I approached them, they ascertained my needs/preferences/ideas (and budget), and we began the process of getting something useful out there. Their charges are based on various factors including the size and nature of the release, and exactly how widely one wishes to have it distributed.

In terms of this last point, MediaNet asked (for example) where I wanted to market (geographically speaking), for eg. internationally and/or domestically (incl. which state/s or region/s) and in what type/s of media category. They provided a tick-a-box form for me to complete in this regard.

It was an interesting learning experience, but - and with no fault attached to anyone involved - I don't think it proved to be a useful measure in this instance.

My first attempt at drafting a release

Iconic survivalist residence emerges from rainforest mist

“The horror, the horror” says Colonel Kurtz to Captain Willard in the epic psychological war film ‘Apocalypse Now’. Odd perhaps, but the story that I’m about to introduce reminds me a little of Kurtz. I learnt of this tale from time spent living in the former home of the main character. Whilst it’s not a derelict temple peopled with Montagnard tribesmen, it too is surrounded by jungle. And more than a little intrigue.

In the last few months we’ve witnessed a slew of articles on the growing regionalisation of the property market. In earlier times similar trends attracted labels such as sea-changers/tree-changers, or 'preppers' or survivalists. Those of us who are old enough, also grew up seeing pictures of enclaves in the USA built from abandoned missile silos and the like. Most assumed this concept never found a place in the Australian real estate market. But that’s not entirely true.

One such exception was the ‘Parc Exclusif’ estate in Mandalay Road, Airlie Beach created by New Zealander, Donald McDonald. Don's unusual vision has returned to the limelight as the home he created as its centrepiece has now been listed for sale.

In the mid-1980's, journalist Guy Ker had this to say about the place:

"The mountaintop mansion boasting the tightest private security system in the Sunshine State is the dream-home of eccentric Kiwi millionaire Don McDonald. Obsessed with self-preservation, the now ailing white-goods king spent a fortune turning his slice of paradise into an impregnable corral. The $20 million residence is guarded around the clock by trained mercenaries and even features an atomic shelter equipped to survive nuclear attack".

Marketing brochures listed a private hospital and nursing clinic as well as apartments and home sites. It was noted that “Special attention has been paid to the security aspect of the clinic. The Airlie Beach district is away from the crime-ridden cities, but as a precaution Parc Exclusif is continually patrolled by security guards. A full personal security service is available for patients who require this special service. Personal staff of the patients are also catered for”.

Whilst most of the buildings Don planned to construct never eventuated, millions were spent on infrastructure. That which remains includes iron piping, water tanks and private roads, most now well and truly swallowed by encroaching vines and forest.

Chesapeake mansion is situated within a 76 hectare secure estate now known as 'Chesapeake Estate', much of which remains thickly forested. Details are available at

(A couple of pics were attached to the release, plus a URL to enable people to access an online place where more pics were available).

Initial feedback from MediaNet

Hi Bruce, I trust this email finds you well, my thoughts on the release are as follows ...

Unfortunately, It is unclear what the purpose of the release is. The opening paragraph is somewhat esoteric, the second doesn't really add any clarity. In effect, are you just looking to alert journalists & thereafter the public of the property's existence? Or to sell it? if so, there is no mention of that intention in the release.

The quote from Guy Ker is forty or so years old and does not really serve to illustrate its current state e.g. does it still have private security patrolling? Does it still have working hospital facilities? etc.

As I mentioned previously, you should look to establish the purpose of the release quickly and succinctly.

Heading - Short, succinct, relevant

First paragraph - Outline or summarise the purpose of the release

Quotes - relevant to the the release

Hope this helps, Trevor

I dutifully replied:

Thanks for the prompt and incisive response. Just what's needed. Yes, on the one hand I want to sell. But on the other hand I am mindful of your earlier comment to editorialise it, not advertorialise it.

I want people to not just be aware of the property, but to have their curiosity aroused enough to look at the website, and contact me. Do you think that's do-able or will I just end up with a thinly disguised print ad?

The second draft of the proposed release

So it would seem that the primary criticism of my first effort was its over-emphasis on the historical theme of the property. (PS: Interesting given this recent article that states that "unique or character features, often with a historic influence, were what many Aussies coveted in a home"). Anyway I gave it another go ...

Landmark Airlie Beach property offered for sale

Good news for yachties, for it’s been announced that Airlie Beach Race Week will be held again this year, to be followed by Hamilton Island Race Week later in August. Good news too for local property sellers, with local agents reporting a strong growth in sales plus record-low rental vacancy rates.

Most towns have their special street from a real estate perspective – ‘the’ place to live and to be seen in. Up in Airlie Beach that’s probably Mandalay Road. The two most noticeable properties there are Mandalay House and Chesapeake Mansion. Mandalay House, by the water down at the tip of Mandalay Road, last sold in November 2017 for around $14 million. Chesapeake Mansion on the other hand, is now listed for private sale with a more modest price tag of $3.5 million.

Chesapeake Mansion is situated within a 76 hectare secure estate, most of which remains thickly forested and brimming with wildlife. The home features a whopping 618 sq metres of internal space plus balconies and terraces on two levels. Whilst it currently features three bedrooms, additional bedrooms could be readily accommodated. Capping it all off are stunning and expansive views encompassing forested hillsides, ocean and islands, the Port of Airlie marina, and the eastern end of Airlie Beach township.

Owner Bruce Bickerstaff noted that the web site he had created to share the story behind the property and the estate ( was attracting significant interest, and that he was optimistic that a sale would occur prior to Race Week.

Indeed, Chesapeake mansion does have an intriguing back story, originally being proposed as a central component in an elaborate survivalist enclave, marketed as ‘Parc Exclusif’. The original development was the brain-child of eccentric New Zealander, Donald McDonald. Whilst most of the buildings Don planned to construct never eventuated, millions were spent on elaborate plans and infrastructure.

Sadly Mr McDonald’s unusual vision didn’t appeal to the market at the time, and the financiers moved in. The entire swathe of land was later bought by Don Algie of Hog’s Breath Café fame, and subsequently renamed as ‘Chesapeake Estate’.

The most recent sale at Chesapeake Estate was Lot 3, which was bought by Victorian horse-breeder Alan Galloway for $6.5 million in August 2020.

The results of the release to date

The first measure of success is how many of the publications that were nominated to be targeted, actually opened and read the release (clients receive a spreadsheet that provides this information). A surprisingly large number of media organisations (albeit still a minority) never opened the email containing the release.

The next measure of success is how many journalists contact you after reading the release to obtain further information and/or quotes ... and then how many media organisations published a story based on the release. Finally - of course - just how many readers of the those publications were sufficiently motivated to contact you to enquire about and inspect the property for sale.

And yes, I did have a significant number of approaches from the media in the week or two that followed the release (and no, I don't have actual figures on hand in case you were wondering).

(To be continued)


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