How to Pitch: La Carmina and Alternative Voices

July 29, 2021

When it comes to pitching destinations and story ideas to the media, many travel PR professionals are tempted to stay on the beaten path. It’s safe and comfortable. It’s what most of the big media brands want. It’s not enough, however, to stand out in today’s world.

It’s the alternative voices that often have the most interesting and media-worthy stories to tell. Most travel PR professionals understand the basics of a destination, but promoting subcultures or other groups not normally put on center stage is a challenge when you don’t know them all that well.

Travel journalists and writers like La Carmina know this and work to help destinations highlight a broader scope of voices to audiences. A travel journalist and author, La Carmina dives into the alternative side of a destination to write about people and experiences that might go overlooked by most mainstream media professionals.

She began her career delving into Gothic culture, writing about the darker and alternative offerings in a destination, like death cultures and cemeteries, among other subjects. It all began, however, in Tokyo. “I first went when I was young with my family and it blew my mind to see Harajuku fashion with experimental alternative looks, especially gothic looks,” she said.

From there, she began to gain a following, helping to elevate voices in a destination that have gone unheard. Anything spooky, haunted, or vampire-related is sure to catch her attention.

She’s not limited to Goth culture, to be clear. Alternative voices are her catnip, including music scenes, emerging artists, LGBTQ+ communities, or anything else underground. From Portland, Oregon to Myanmar, she has traveled the world telling stories that other writers may not even have thought of researching.

Why focus on subcultures?

With nightlife and cultural events taking such a hit during the pandemic, La Carmina believes it is more important than ever to help elevate these alternative voices. “I think it’s key to work with them and support them. Music festivals and restaurant weeks will bring in travelers and help local artists get back on their feet,” she said.

As the travel industry works towards more inclusivity, with brands supporting new initiatives and features on their sites, there is also an opportunity to work with writers like her to achieve those goals. La Carmina said that there is still a lot of prejudice and stereotypes around alternative voices and subcultures that need to stop. “It’s easy to have false ideas about something that seems dark or strange. However, even if people have a negative first impression, there are ways they can overcome them and broaden their minds,” she said.

Her mission, through her stories, TV appearances and guidebooks, is to help change all of that.

“Rather than hiding alternative voices, elevate them. At the end of the day it’s not frightening,. It’s positive! If journalists can encourage them with an open mind, then some of the best stories can come from these and make the destination looks great,” she said,

For travel PR professionals at destinations, she said many emerging trends bubble up from subcultures in the first place, like punk, electro, and even greasers! It all starts underground. “If you want to support these artists that are going to make a future impact, do it from the ground up. A destination can really benefit,” she said.

Part of that means including more diversity in press trips, something that La Carmina pointed out is happening, slowly, in the industry. “There have been more discussions and talk and more women and people of color on press trips and at conferences and who don’t all look the same. It’s been at least a conversation, but there’s more work to be done,” she said. Progress is slow, but the potential is big for destinations to benefit from these alternative voices.

Working with La Carmina

The biggest challenge working with destination marketers when your beat is offbeat, La Carmina said, is maintaining a good, clear communication process. She acknowledges, however, that not every marketer will be on top of the subculture scene. “If it’s not the language you’ve been speaking for years and it’s not your community, it’s going to be a struggle,” she said.

She brings her own research and experience to the table, working with destination marketers and travel PR professionals to find the alternative voices that interest her. In an ideal world, she would bring the stories to a destination marketer and they provide the support to get her to the people involved. “I like to speak to the person representing the place to see if they understand what I am looking for. If so, then we can figure out the best ways to work together,” she said.

Uncovering subcultures takes more time than a simple press visit, and La Carmina hopes to find marketers who are willing to help her organize longer stays or more far-reaching trips in a country. She’s looking to visit multiple cities to get a broader sense of a place.

While Russia is on her most-wanted list, she is open to exploring any destination that has a subculture or artistic scene to discover. Don’t bother pitching her group tours. She wants the liberty to explore at her own pace, to find the places that most journalists aren’t going. “I want to stay true to my DNA and the message I want to bring,” she said.

Be sure to do your research first. A big red flag for La Carmina is a media pitch that truly does not speak to her particular beat. Dive into her website and Instagram to get a feel for her interests before pitching a story. If it has any edge, however, chances are she’ll have a second look.

“If a travel PR professional can show me they put in the effort, that will get my attention. To me that shows they are worth working with,” she said.

Looking to broaden your base of media contacts? DCI has more than 60 years of connecting destinations with travel writers and influencers. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barns at [email protected] to learn more about looking beyond the traditional travel press to tell more stories about your destination.