UTS Library

"Selling Nindooinbah" - The Marketing and Slae of Historic "Ninbooinbah", Beaudesert, QLD


Mr and Mrs Stevens

PR Company: 

Westbrook FInancial Communications Pty Ltd

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2005 H 3



Executive Summary: 

In February 2004, prominent Queensland grazier, philanthropist and scion of one of Australia’s oldest pastoral families, Margaret de Burgh Persse Hockey OAM, died after a long illness.  This resulted in the sale, in May 2005, for the first time in more than a century of her family home, the historic “Nindooinbah”, at Beaudesert.

Margaret and her late husband, the flamboyant Sydney painter, Patrick Hockey, bequeathed “Nindooinbah” to Patrick’s nephew, Mudgee winemaker, Tim Stevens, who engaged Westbrook Communications to assist with communications and marketing advice around the sale of the property and its contents.

With Tim we sized up the critical elements of the campaign: it was a tough property market which meant a marketing campaign had to be far reaching but there was a limited budget for advertising.  Consequently, the focus had to be on achieving and sustaining media coverage over a six week period, with key messages and news points doing extra duty in running campaign themes.

Our role in the “Selling Nindooinbah” campaign was as campaign director, offering advice, implementing the media campaign first hand and dealing with crisis management along the way.

We directed construction of a website which supported our key messages emphasising “Nindooinbah’s” uniqueness and targeted key journalists in a programmed sequence of news distribution with email and telephone follow-up.

Key achievements of the campaign were:

  • outstanding depth and breadth of feature media coverage across print and electronic media
  • sustaining this coverage in a managed way so that it was ongoing in the lead up to the property and contents auctions and beyond (five months in total)
  • crisis management around balancing the interests of heirs to the estate, community heritage activists and government heritage officials, all of whom had the potential to halt or derail the sale
  • creating “buzz” around an essentially provincial Qld story to attract the attention of high net worth buyers in Australia and internationally
  • significant collateral profile recognition for Stevens and his wine making activities in Mudgee without compromising the main selling campaign

Situation Analysis: 

The following table represents the situation analysis in the form of the challenges we faced:

Devise an integrated marketing communications campaign on a strictly limited budget to generate buyer interest in the first sale in 100 years of “Nindooinbah”, one of Australia’s most iconic country homesteads and grazing properties
  • Create an attached marketing communications campaign incorporating a limited amount of advertising
  • Embrace and manage various stakeholder sensitivities
  • Honour the dying wishes of the deceased owner
  • Achieve collateral media coverage for Tim Stevens without compromising the key storyline
Sustain media coverage in the lead up to the property and contents auction sale so as to generate as much buyer interest as possible
  • A six week strategy was developed around key written documents supported by an information and resource rich website with reliance on Westbrook Communications’ extensive media contact network
  • Devise key messages around historical and cultural heritage of “Nindooinbah”
  • Draft key documents
  • Advise on, draft and edit website content
  • Prepare detailed media wish list and distribution timetable
  • Plan advertising schedule
Harness the cultural and historical significance of Nindooinbah and differentiate the sale from “just another home auction”.
  • Highlight in all written material the iconic nature of the property emphasising its architectural, social and cultural uniqueness
  • Articulate the distinctive nature of Nindooinbah’s contents, including generations of collectibles and significant Australian artworks
Limited budget
Limited budget for an advertising and marketing campaign to extend over six weeks
  • Create a brief set of documents which would encompass all the key messages and be the driver of the PR campaign
  • Key documents to work in tandem with the Nindooinbah website which contained a photo library of the property and written material
    Advice to align cost with value of service delivery
Deceased owner’s wishes
The deceased owner’s wish was the property be sold as a whole, not broken up into its 18 separate titles
  • Addressing sensitivities through advice on marketing strategy
Single  spokesperson
Media training of main spokesperson, Tim Stevens
  • Preparation of key messages
  • Advise on developing news angles
  • Identify proactive media opportunities
  • Facilitate media interviews
Collateral coverage
Achieve collateral media coverage for Tim Stevens’ winemaking activities without compromising the “Nindooinbah” story
  • Draft key messages incorporating targeted secondary material
  • Liaise orally and by email with individual journalists

Our communications program, “Selling Nindooinbah”, met all these challenges, exceeded expectations in terms of results and established a profile and sound communications footing for a successful auction of the property and a record sale of its contents.


Research we undertook to implement the program included: 

  • internet and metropolitan newspaper files in Brisbane and Sydney to gain a thorough understanding of “Nindooinbah’s” history
  • liaison with social and political associates of the deceased owners
  • analysis of media coverage of the sale of properties with comparable heritage and cultural significance
  • meetings with all relevant stakeholders in the auction process – owners, auctioneers, solicitors, community groups and government officials
  • media databases to determine appropriate targets for briefings and distribution

Target Policies: 

Given our objectives, our target audience comprised three parts.

·              Part 1: media targets
­               feature writers
­               fine arts writers
­               TV news and current affairs
­               property writers
­               radio – metropolitan and regional
­               lifestyle, food and wine
­               mainstream media spin-off publications e.g. Good Weekend, The Australian Magazine, Friday Magazine (Rural Press),

·               Part 2: potential purchasers
­               high net worth individuals in Australia and overseas
­               agribusiness investors
­               fine arts and collectibles dealers and collectors
­               high end rural estate agents and their clients

·               Part 3: stakeholders
­               surviving relatives and heirs of Margaret and Patrick Hockey
­               concerned community heritage activists
­               Queensland government heritage protection officers

Communication Strategy: 


The strategy we adopted and implemented is explained below:

National and international media exposure
  • ·      Create a set of documents which encapsulate key messages
  • Documents to be supported by “Nindooinbah” website, with its array of photographs and written material
  • Adopt single person spokesperson role for Tim Stevens to ensure consistency of message
  • Westbrook Communications to be first point of contact for media nationally
  • Six week media plan drawn up incorporating lead time deadlines for non-daily publications
  • Draft key documents with all media material including a link to the “Nindooinbah” website which contained photographic library and other resource material
  • Prepare media kits containing news release, sale brochure & CD Rom with web site resource material
  • Campaign commenced with targeted “exclusives” in the Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Courier Mail
  • General distribution to property and feature writers
  • All news releases posted on the Westbrook Communications website
  • Liaison with selling agent to gauge buyer interest and to guide media focus
  • Create target list of journalists and media outlets
  • Brief journalists for one-on-one interviews
  • Extensive telephone and email liaison with targeted journalists
Create momentum over an extended period
  • Maximise all available resources within our budget to ensure media campaign spanned the months leading up to the auction
  • Develop timeline to ensure a successful roll-out of campaign
Articulate the unique historical, cultural and social significance of Nindooinbah
  • Ensure journalists were thoroughly briefed on the “Nindooinbah” story to ensure accuracy
  • Develop background notes on “Nindooinbah” for journalists
  • Direct journalists to “Nindooinbah” website for photos and in depth historical information
Manage modest budget
  • Production of tightly focused key information documents to harness media potential
  • Documents used in tandem with “Nindooinbah” website – a key resource in containing costs
  • Core documents drafted: a sale news release, media background notes and biographical notes on Tim Stevens including a hyperlink to a Sydney Morning Herald obituary of Margaret Hockey OAM, the deceased previous owner
  • Fresh angles were targeted and disseminated via email media alerts
Establish ongoing relationships with the media
  • Maintain the momentum of the “Nindooinbah” communications strategy by generating ongoing media coverage from pre-sale to contents auction
  • Develop relationships with key journalists
  • Establish a media followers list from media visits to the site and coverage obtained
  • Maintain news flow via email news alerts
  • Facilitate site visits for journalists
Balance the interests of various stakeholders
  • Include key stakeholders in all communication strategy meetings to ensure a collegiate approach to the formulation of key messages
  • Manage all stakeholder concerns through open communication of our strategy
Collateral media coverage
  • Make reference to the winemaking business of Tim Stevens in all outgoing communication
  • Brief Stevens on how to incorporate “Abercorn” storyline into interviews without compromising main story line


Among measurable results were:

  • Media coverage generated sufficient momentum that it exceeded even the planned wish list, achieved unprecedented accuracy in reporting and extended more than five months from March 2005
  • Print media coverage including colour features in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Courier Mail and The Australian Magazine
  • Extensive TV news coverage, feature material on ABC TV Countrywide and the Nine Network’s Queensland Extra Program and coverage on Queensland radio including Brisbane commercial stations and nationally on ABC Radio Country Hour
  • 18 separate contracts issued prior to the auction to as far afield as London and Los Angeles, with 17 of the 18 interested parties actually attending the auction and bidding
  • More than 1,000 people attended the contents sale  which achieved a 100 per cent clearance from more than 500 lots, the proceeds from which were more than double professional valuation estimates and set a new Australian record of $17,000 for a Patrick Hockey painting
  • Extensive collateral media coverage of Tim Stevens’ activities as a Mudgee winemaker including a colour feature in the Sun Herald, Sunday Life supplement
  • The local Zonta Club ran a food stall which raised enough from the single event to fund its entire Winter welfare program for the Beaudesert area


The table below evaluates outcomes in relation to objectives

National and international media exposure
  • Extensive media coverage across a broad spectrum of national mainstream news and property print media, Queensland local papers, television, radio and lifestyle media
  • Positive media coverage exceeding expected coverage
  • Outstanding depth and breadth of feature media coverage across print and electronic media
  • Interested buyers exceeded expectations
  • Flow-on media coverage reflected in record sale attendance results
Create momentum over an extended period
  • Perpetuation of key messages in the media creating sustained momentum of coverage over five months
  • High standard of presentation of the key messages by main spokesperson, Tim Stevens
  • Positive media coverage with well-timed targeted news releases and media alerts helping to keep the “Nindooinbah “story on the national media agenda
Articulate the unique historical, cultural and social significance of Nindooinbah
  • This significant point of difference was articulated in all media coverage primarily due to our communication strategy objective of positioning Nindooinbah as a cultural icon
  • Process assisted by enabling journalists to view and download photographs and background information from the “Nindooinbah” website
Manage modest budget
  • Through a well-time and strategically executed communications campaign, budget was adhered to with maximum results
  • All available resources employed to produce a quality campaign within a limited budget
Establish ongoing relationships with the media
  • By developing a media database and creating ongoing relationships with these journalists via email and telephone calls, we were able to develop a group of journalists who followed the Nindooinbah story from pre-auction through to the contents sale and beyond
  • The fostering of these relationships ensured favourable reporting in the media.
Balance the interests of various stakeholders
  • The potential to derail the auction was averted through a consensus approach to the communications strategy
  • Positive media coverage resulted from successful balancing of key stakeholder concerns
Collateral media coverage
  • Media was encouraged to write about Tim Stevens and his “Abercorn” vineyard with the process assisted by Stevens being sole media spokesperson
  • Our approach ensured coverage for Stevens without compromising the main “Nindooinbah” selling campaign