george-clooney-up-in-the-airOK, so we know that content is king. And we know that great content marketing involves telling your brand’s story. But your brand is also part of a bigger story, which includes your competitors and customers and everyone else in your industry. And you want to be the hero.

Sound like the tagline of a choose-your-own-adventure story? Well, that’s exactly what travel is. Adventure. Experience. Personal history. If you want people to invite you into their stories, you have to let them in on yours. That’s why content is more than a buzzword. The most compelling content builds familiarity and trust—and establishes your brand as a leader in your industry. Or a hero in your story.

Diving in to content marketing

Sometimes it takes a smaller tourism company to show travel brands how ripe this industry is for storytelling. Take Dive Rite, for example. Established in 1984 by two underwater cave explores and diving instructors, the Florida-based company calls itself “the first technical dive gear company in existence.” Today it’s also the world’s leading  online community for serious divers.

In early 2006, the Dive Rite website was essentially an online catalogue. The company had long standing relationships with print media partners, and relied on them for most of its advertising. Dive Rite’s organizational structure and budgeting—like most retail brands—was set up to sell products, not to produce content. But the company knew it had a lot more to offer divers.

So Dive Rite contacted content marketer Russell Sparkman who suggested the company establish itself as the “definitive resource” in the technical SCUBA gear market. The company launched a blog, an instructional video channel and a dynamic FAQ tool called the “Solution Finder.”

Dive Rite also reinforced its role as a SCUBA gear pioneer by writing itself into the story. The website features a historical timeline, which takes readers through the early days of underwater cave exploration up to today’s technical advances.  The timeline places the launch of Dive Rite into this history, highlighting the fact that the brand was around before virtually all of its competitors. They’re the heroes.

Return on engagement

Dive Rite’s leadership-based content strategy paid off. With relatively little ad spending, their website’s traffic has increased by 33%. The site ranks organically in the top 10 for their most important key words and phrases, and numbers 1, 2 or 3 for primary key words. The average time spent at is an impressive 30 minutes, with an 80% sale conversion rate when referred to one of their online dealers. Now, that’s return on engagement.

Up in the Air

Don’t want to tell your own story? You can be the hero of somebody else’s…through clever brand integration. Co-starring with George Clooney, American Airlines shines in the new movie, “Up in the Air,” which showcases the airline’s friendly employees, posh Admiral Club lounges, and Clooney’s character—the ultimate Transumer?— pining for 10 million frequent flyer miles. Think about product placement, cross-promotion, and sponsorships as a way of attaching your brand to like-minded content.

Travel sells itself

Dive Rite’s online brand took off because the content they created is compelling and useful. The company also has an important advantage; wreck diving is exciting. But so is air travel. Or visiting a new, faraway place. Travel is an adventure that sells itself. Convincing customers to engage with your brand is a whole other story.