How Fast Company’s Eillie Anzilotti Finds Story Inspiration
Jul 14, 2017 Angela Smith
Developing media relationships is more important than ever. It’s a symbiotic thing - the more you know about a reporter, the better you’ll be at working with them to find and place stories that are a perfect fit. So, to learn more straight from the source I caught up with Eillie Anzilotti of Fast Company to discuss her particular interests, where she finds the most inspiration for stories, and how PR fits into that picture.Eillie is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, where she focuses her coverage on sustainability, social good and alternative economies.
Q: What makes for a good Fast Company story?
Fast Company is all about how businesses and individuals can be forces of good, and for my section (Ideas) in particular, we really focus on sustainability and social good. So while a good Fast Company story can take a wide variety of forms—from investigating why corporate malpractice was able to perpetuate in certain workplaces, to highlighting another company’s innovative strategies or policies—I really look for a story that interrogates a concern while also presenting a solution. I want to be able to write about a business or a person that’s looked at (for example) the lack of supply-chain transparency in a particular industry, and come up with a solution to treat workers more fairly and to represent their sourcing more honestly to their consumers. I also want to cover companies that have figured out a way to embed sustainability and rock-solid ethics into their business model and prove that by doing so, they can remain profitable. And the fantastic thing about my work is, I so often have the privilege of doing so!
Q: How has being a reporter changed in the last year?
It’s impossible to talk about how reporting has changed within the last year without talking about politics, so I’ll just dive right in: Post-Trump, our commitment to truth—but also hope—has become even more imperative. Contrary to the idea emanating from the White House that the media traffics in lies, we have a responsibility to our readers to report on stories in ways that are clear-eyed, accurate and trustworthy. Especially when it comes to topics that I focus on frequently, like climate change, my commitment to identifying and reporting on evidence-supported stories and trends has galvanized. But to me, reporting now also has to be about presenting the truth as a vehicle for hope. Through my work, I’ve spoken to so many people who are thinking rigorously and clearly about solutions to issues—gender equity, climate change, ethics—that feel abandoned by our current administration. I want to use my writing as a mouthpiece for their ideas, and as a way to get people thinking about how they might be able to get involved in the issues they care about.
Q: Do you have a favorite story that you've covered for Fast Company?
Dovetailing off the last question, I wrote a piece in the spring about how individual states are working to rebuild the structure of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, after Trump pledge to dismantle it. For that, I spoke to people involved with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the country’s first cap-and-trade program, and policy experts at the Environmental Defense Fund; I hope it provided a perspective on an issue a lot of people were feeling anxiety over. Another recent favorite was a piece I wrote about solar (yes, solar) in West Virginia—Bloomberg Philanthropies recently produced an incredible documentary called From The Ashes, which detailed the need for the U.S. to move beyond coal power, so I drove down to West Virginia for a screening of the film, and met with some incredible young entrepreneurs that are working to diversify the state’s economy and energy sources.
Q: What is your favorite part about being a reporter?
Really, it’s what’s been underpinning a lot of my answers—the ability to get to meet so many people that are working on incredible policies and projects that defy hopelessness. From experts studying the economic benefits of corporate sustainability and social responsibility practices to people (like Cotopaxi CEO Davis Smith, who is incredible) forming businesses to do good, not make a profit—speaking with these people never fails awe me.
Q: Where do you find the most inspiration for your stories?
I read constantly, so I’m often inspired by thinking about stories I see in the news from a more solutions-based perspective. That’s how I came up with the idea to write about states rebuilding Obama’s Clean Power Plan—I read an article about Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announcing that his state will develop its own carbon-limiting plan, and began to wonder if other states were doing the same. And oftentimes, I’ll get a fantastic pitch from a rep or agency that’s read my work, knows what I report on, and has a project that’ll be a perfect fit.
Q: Do you have any PR pet peeves?
Perfect transition! Being pitched on something completely off-beat is frustrating—I read all pitches, and it’s always encouraging to see if someone’s taken the time to read some of my articles and gotten the gist of what I cover before reaching out. Also, reporters are very busy! I’m constantly juggling multiple deadlines, and while a good followup is often helpful (when I am stressed, I admit my brain can be sieve-like) more than one, particularly more than one per day, can just add to the stress. Also, keep it to one form of communication—if you’re emailing me, stick with email. If you’re calling, call my work line. Do not, God forbid, call my cell unless we’ve discussed that’s the best way to get in touch for a particular story or project. (I once had a PR rep call my cell at 8 p.m. on a Friday night while I was—where else?—drinking at a bar. Needless to say, that was a shocker.) And this last one may be particular to me, but I have a very weird name, and it’s awesome when I get a pitch where it’s spelled correctly.