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Duchess of Rutland

Duchess, the Podcast

We worked with the Duchess of Rutland to create a #1 hit podcast with millions of downloads worldwide - highlighting national heritage and becoming a global brand.

Background & First Steps

Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland, is a British businesswoman and the custodian of Belvoir Castle. In 2019, The Duchess approached us with a desire to make a podcast that paid homage to the importance of custodianship on behalf of her family’s estate, Belvoir Castle.

We met the Duchess and Violet for an initial ideation session. We developed a concept where the Duchess, using her life experience as a person born outside the aristocracy, would go on a journey of learning. Visiting the most important stately homes in the UK and meeting the other women who lead them

The Duchess of Rutland devotes most of her time to running Belvoir Castle and promoting the estate to visitors. Reaching as many people as possible to encourage tourism and awareness of Belvoir Castle was paramount.

Rather than focusing on Belvoir Castle, the Duchess would explore the themes of custodianship, history, and the untold stories of women in heritage across the UK. This had a broader appeal and would place the Duchess at the centre of the series.

Obstacles

This was a powerful concept, but we identified many problems we would need to overcome:

  • Education: The Duchess of Rutland had very little experience making content. We educated the Duchess on our recording process, the podcasting industry, and best practises for hosting. By the end of recording season 1 the Duchess was a seasoned, professional host, with fans noting her wit and elegance on the microphone.
  • Extensive Research: The level of history was immense and needed to be communicated with precision. We created extensive research documents for every guest and estate. This would lay the foundation for the questions we wrote, guiding the narrative. These scripts were tailored to the Duchess’ unique tone of voice and identity.
  • Narrative Complexity: Recording sessions would often last 2 hours in total. A number that would need to be cut down to 35 minutes. This meant a long time in the editing room was required to weave the narrative coherently. Scripting was also a challenge. The story of the estate, the guest, and the Duchess’ role in exploring these homes all had to be contextualised and articulated in a compelling way. Doing this meant the podcast had the narrative complexity to stand out.
  • Filming on Location: This was a show that covered the length and breath of the UK. This required on site filming. We travelled around the UK, setting up equipment to capture the content and shooting two or more episodes in one day. Filming on location brought life to the podcast. Also, the natural ebb and flow of a real, face to face dialogue made for a more intimate conversation.
  • Evolution: Because the show was a success, people wanted more. But to keep people interested you need to evolve the brand. So we iterated the podcast throughout the seasons. In season 2 , we made a Christmas special for that was well received by fans. For season 4, we produced a Belvoir Special about the Manners’ family seat. The Countess of Derby hosted a season to explore the Earls of Derby and Knowsley Hall. Season 5 would prove to be most successful for media attention and listenership since the start of the podcast with feature articles appearing in publications such as the New York Times. This continuous evolution has kept the content fresh and relevant.

Impact & Achievements

We're still producing the series, comprising of over 50 episodes as of Summer 2023.

Our work included researching, scripting, editing, and filming episodes. Most episodes of the podcast have a 100% completion rate, illustrating the strength of the narrative storytelling.

Millions would tune in to listen to the podcast with hundreds of Apple Podcast ratings testifying the show delivered entertaining, informative and inspiring content.

The Duchess podcast would become a brand. Belvoir regularly receiving fan mail from avid listeners. A merchandise line would be launched from the Duchess the Podcast website. The Duchess and her daughter would regularly stream on instagram live to engage listeners. The Duchess would also receive a book deal, TV deal and numerous sponsorships as a result of the show.

Belvoir Castle’s social media following reflected the Podcast’s success. From January 2020 to August 2023, Belvoir’s social media account trebled its following count. Belvoir Castle went on to commission OneFinePlay to produce YouTube content as well - another work in progress.

Now, Duchess is one of the top history podcasts worldwide and Belvoir Castle is one of the UK most recognisable stately homes.

  • Millions of downloads worldwide.
  • No.1 on Apple Podcast Charts.
  • Nominated at the British Podcast Awards.
  • Sponsorship deal secured.
  • Book deal secured.
  • TV deal secured.

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