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The Master CFO Series: Getting the message right - CFOs and the media: back seat or center stage? - EY - Global

EY - The Master CFO Series: Back seat or center stage? CFOs and the media

The CFO role


We believe these six segments represent the breadth of the CFO’s remit. The leading CFOs we work with typically have some involvement in each of these six — either directly or through their team.

While the weighting of that involvement will depend on the maturity and ambition of the individual, the sector and scale of the finance function and economic stability, they are all critical to effective leadership.
EY - The CFO role

Media relations: 10 tips for the CFO

  1. Prepare for the unexpected.
  2. Have clear goals for an interview.
  3. Keep it simple.
  4. Don’t be afraid to dig in.
  5. Ask for feedback.
  6. Get to know journalists and their agendas.
  7. Prepare for everyday situations — not just a crisis.
  8. Make the time for media training.
  9. Work in tandem with the corporate communications team.
  10. Recalibrate your measure of successful media relations.

“The media are feeding off each other in a way that they never have done before. And very often it'll be the CFO who needs to react and get on the air.” Andrew Harvey of HarveyLeach

CFOs can rarely be accused of seeking the media limelight. When crisis strikes or a major announcement is made, it is the chief executive who is typically expected to take center stage.

While CFOs are always on hand at press conferences to run through financial results or answer technical questions, they usually take a back seat when it comes to courting journalists or building a public profile. But, there are signs that this is changing.

The CFO role

EY - The CFO role

Not all CFOs will have a role, or indeed want a role, beyond engaging with the media on the annual or quarterly communication of financial results.

However, a significant number are involved in media communication which is broader, both in subject matter — given a widening role and stakeholder expectations for a narrative beyond pure numbers — and channel, given the fragmentation of the media and fierce competition to get the story.

But are they getting the support they need to make the most of this expanding role?

Key findings

  • CFOs have a more active media role

    The primary media responsibility for most respondents remains communication of financial information. Yet, over one- third of respondents also have responsibility for communicating on issues including crisis management and long-term strategy. More than four out of 10 CFOs are communicating with the media more often and spending more time doing so.

  • A changing media landscape is affecting the way CFOs need to communicate

    Fragmentation of media channels, the emergence of a 24/7 “rolling news” model and the increasing sophistication of financial news reporting, are fundamentally changing the way the media works and the way in which CFOs need to respond. Almost two-thirds of respondents agree that the media has become more aggressive, while 52% think that the crisis has made the media more suspicious of business leaders.

  • CFOs’ confidence levels in dealing with the media are potentially misplaced

    While eight out of 10 CFOs rate their confidence in dealing with the media as good or excellent, comfort levels drop when communicating about non-financial performance and long-term strategy.

  • The infrastructure to support CFOs has not caught up with their broadening media role

    Only 39% of respondents receive briefings from the press office or a media training company before major announcements, and only 23% work with their communications team on a strategy to proactively build relationships with key journalists and those who influence them.

    While practiced at communicating financial results, CFOs may want to consider support and training to help them navigate the worst as well as take full advantage of the opportunities their broadening role offers.


Back seat or center stage? CFOs and the media is part of EY’s Master CFO Series, which provides insights on events and experiences CFOs encounter as part of their role. This report is based on a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, of 260 CFOs in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, and interviews with media and communication experts.

 Media relations: 10 tips for the CFO

Media relations: 10 tips for the CFO

  1. Prepare for the unexpected.
  2. Have clear goals for an interview.
  3. Keep it simple.
  4. Don’t be afraid to dig in.
  5. Ask for feedback.
  6. Get to know journalists and their agendas.
  7. Prepare for everyday situations — not just a crisis.
  8. Make the time for media training.
  9. Work in tandem with the corporate communications team.
  10. Recalibrate your measure of successful media relations.
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