Listening is one of the most important tools you use when working and forming a relationship with reporters. What you come to realize is that behind an email address is a person with specific interests, and the more they are intrigued by the story, the better it turns out.

November marked three years of creating and brainstorming stories with Ann Maloney of NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune. Ann started out as the entertainment editor at the publication and is now writing about her passion for food and the stories that give you a splash of culture when tasting a dish.

Toward the end of last year, Ann and I got together to start brainstorming on how we can tell the story of The Roosevelt New Orleans’ gingerbread display made by Head Pastry Chef Deborah Heyd, which you can see and read here. Intertwined in this conversation was how Ann is interested in the Vietnamese culture and food that is so heavily populated in the West Bank. Vietnamese cuisine was and is becoming more popular throughout America.

My family was born and raised in Vietnam so I said, “hey, why not come grocery shopping, cook and eat with us?” A couple of days after Ann sat down for lunch with us, out came a #TreasuredRecipe article that not only includes recipes to Vietnamese comfort dishes we showed Ann, but my family’s history and how they immigrated to America. Check out the story here.

So, my tip today is to listen because one, getting to know someone is super interesting and two, you never know what you can offer them in the midst of conversation to create an once-in-a-lifetime story.

To see and read more from Ann Maloney, follow her on Instagram and NOLA.com.

Story written by Rona Hoang, TEG Account Executive (and PR rockstar).