WORDS: Greg Pride PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

Local company Media Hunt has forged a reputation as one of Australia’s leading public relations consultancies and advisors to the property industry –  in both good times and bad.

IN recent months, challenges have emerged in the property industry nationally that have begun to impact on Southeast Queensland in a profound way.

Rising labour costs, delays in getting material supplies to complete projects and price rises are hitting the industry hard on the back of what has been an incredible boom in the region in 2021.

The Gold Coast-based Media Hunt Communications – one of Australia’s leading public relations consultancies and advisors to the property industry – has found itself in the thick of managing brands in both good and bad times, including the global financial crisis of 2007-’08. More recently, this has included managing the fallout of the untimely demise of one of the most highly respected construction companies on the Gold Coast, Condev, which went into liquidation in February.

Over the years, Media Hunt founder Steve Hunt has been approached by many national firms seeking advice on how to manage brands in the public interface. He says managing crises effectively is as important as promoting the industry in good times.

“What people often forget is that it can be three or four years between a project conception and completion,” Steve says. “A lot can happen during that time. The market can be hot when you lodge a development application, and a developer takes the project to the market, but a lot of unforeseen factors can occur before completion.

“The interesting thing about the set of circumstances the industry currently finds itself in is that it has occurred in a boom. The industry has become a victim of its success whilst dealing with external forces it can’t control, such as rising costs and supply chain issues, which are a global problem. And yet the market, particularly the off-the-plan apartment market, is still very strong. It is not like the global financial crisis when the market just ground to a halt.

“The Covid phenomenon is still seeing incredibly strong migration into south-east Queensland and the good developers with strong balance sheets are thriving –  and will continue to thrive.”

After 30 years in the media industry – first as a senior journalist and then as a PR practitioner – Steve offers some great advice to brands navigating the current challenges.

“The first piece, and most important, of advice, is to be transparent,” he says. “The last thing you want is for some adverse media exposure, often based on rumours, to become a self-fulfilling prophecy where prospective buyers won’t sign contracts or buy your product because of a rumour. That’s when the cashflow can stop. And saying ‘no comment’ these days implies there are underlying issues. It’s a response you see all the time from someone coming out of a courtroom.

“In the case of Condev, we were in a unique position where we were engaged to announce and manage the liquidation, while also representing multiple developers whose projects were exposed to the builder. On the day prior to the liquidation being announced publicly, I sat in the meeting with 18 developers from all over Australia who were asked to inject millions of dollars to keep Condev afloat.

“It was a very delicate situation – very stressful for many. It required us to use all of our media experience crystal balling exactly how the issue would play out when announced to the media the next day. This wasn’t just going to affect the company and its staff, but the hundreds of subcontractors and tradespeople working on each of the sites, the developers’ certainty of delivery and of course, consumer sentiment for buyers in some of these projects.

“Our advice to Steve and Tracy Marais, the founders of Condev, was: ‘Be transparent’. They were the perfect clients because they took our advice and had the courage to front up to the TV cameras for what became a national story in the wake of the collapse of Australia’s biggest construction company, Probuild.

“We had media chasing us from across the country – from the Australian Financial Review, The Australian, Ross Greenwood from Sky News and every TV news network in the country. We worked very hard with Steve and Tracy on the right messages to articulate. The result was they gained the industry and public sympathy, who understood the challenges they were facing were predominantly out of their control. Ultimately they left with their dignity intact.”

Steve says it’s imperative for businesses to engage PR practitioners who have had extensive newsroom experience.

“Unless you’ve worked in the newsroom, you aren’t going to be able to provide the right advice. You need to have the instincts to foreshadow how the media will treat a story and those instincts come from having been a journalist,” he says.

“Thankfully, with the great relationships we have with local media and media throughout the country, we were able to give them the backstory before the cameras and scribes rolled into Condev’s Robina offices. We were also transparent, which prevented rumour and innuendo and the reporting of misinformation.”

In becoming one of the leading PR brands on the Gold Coast, Media Hunt has quietly expanded its presence throughout Australia’s eastern seaboard and into New Zealand as companies seek its guidance to navigate through the myriad of issues the industry faces.

The company has had six of Australia’s leading ‘rich listers’ on its client workbook in the past two years – companies that he says have ‘followed the money’ because of the opportunities south-east Queensland presents.

“These companies are not coming into Southeast Queensland without good reason,” Steve says. “They know that despite the current issues, the future of the region is bright and they are strategically positioning themselves for what I believe will be a golden decade in the lead-up to the Olympics in 2032.”

Media Hunt launched more than $20 billion in projects throughout 2021. Last month, it launched a $350 million resort and marina precinct in the Whitsundays, securing almost $2 million in media coverage across the nation.

Media Hunt’s clients include Iris Capital, a private national company with a market capitalisation of $5 billion which recently launched the $800 million V & A apartments at Broadbeach; Beckdev, headed by rich lister Max Beck; KTQ Group, the owners of the Elements of Byron resort and creators of the $400 million Kirra Beach Hotel redevelopment; and Hirsch and Faigen, a billion-dollar company headed by Eddie Hirsch which has three major projects on the Gold Coast.

“We’ve branched into Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand because businesses interstate are seeing what we’re doing in our own patch and want that replicated,” Steve says. “Just by virtue of where we are located on the Gold Coast, we have very strong connections with national and international media – many of whom reach out to us as a source of news content.

“We’re now talking to potential partners across the country and New Zealand on how we can implement the successful model we have developed here. We’ve been in talks with larger agencies and potential partners that want to increase their exposure in south-east Queensland because of the incredible growth opportunities here, while at the same time we look to increase our operating capacity and service delivery interstate and in NZ, where incredible opportunities have emerged.

“It’s a very exciting time for a small, family-owned business that started in Burleigh Heads 17 years ago, which now has a national reputation, reach and client base and is expanding and growing.”