Meet Cynthia Neiman, CHOC Children’s new chief marketing officer and vice president of marketing and communications. A marketing professional with 30 years of experience, including a special background in digital marketing and branding, Cynthia holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in economics from UCLA.
The marketing, tennis and all things Swedish enthusiast shares why she was inspired to join the CHOC team:
Q: What inspired you to join CHOC?
A: I have spent the majority of my career marketing to kids and young families. From IKEA to Mattel to most recently Ergobaby, I have always enjoyed working for organizations and brands that have strong emotional connections to the target market and to me, personally. As I reached this stage in my career, I knew that I wanted to give back in a more meaningful way by working for an organization that had a strong sense of purpose. When I was approached about the CHOC opportunity, I felt an instant connection because CHOC combined both my experience in reaching families, as well as the purpose-driven opportunity that means so much to me.
Q: How do you envision helping CHOC earn more national recognition as a leading destination for children’s health?
A: I am a big believer in the power of storytelling. As humans, we are hardwired to best understand and retain information when it is told in the form of a story. There are so many amazing stories here at CHOC that center around not only patients, but nurses, physicians and associates. Sharing CHOC stories in more powerful and compelling ways will be a key element in attracting more national attention and recognition for CHOC.
Q: What are a few things you’d like to accomplish at CHOC?
A: First of all, I want to continue the great work that is already happening in so many areas within CHOC, and continue to build on the momentum of opening the CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center. Secondly, I want to help launch the Thompson Autism Center at CHOC Children’s that will deliver needed services to those families with children on the spectrum. Lastly, I want to develop and mentor my team so that we can be the best marketing partners possible for the many departments within CHOC, as well as provide marketing strategy and leadership in new areas that we haven’t developed yet.
Q: You enjoy mentoring and inspiring teams. What advice do you have for others wishing to do the same here?
A: Even though I pride myself on my digital experience, I have a bit of an old-school philosophy when it comes to mentoring. If you want to mentor a team, first and foremost, I think it is important to lead by example. Be present and make eye contact during conversations and deliver feedback early and often. My mother was the greatest mentor I ever had and she had one golden rule that I try to live by… “praise in public and criticize in private.”
Q: What three words would you use to describe yourself?
A: Mother. Friend. Competitor.
Q: How has being a competitive tennis player impacted you professionally?
A: Competing in a sport teaches us so many things. How to win. How to lose. How to be a member of a team. How to overcome adversity and so many other traits that really benefit us in our personal and professional lives. I really love to work with and hire athletes because the drive to succeed while being a member of a team is a truly powerful combination and one that I have leveraged throughout my career. In tennis, like in many sports, you face different opponents and you may have to change your game plan mid-way through in order to win. In business, you may begin with one strategy, but if you find it unsuccessful, you’ll have to change tactics, just like in tennis, in order to be competitive. In addition, I have always been more of a doubles player than a singles player because I’ve always loved the teamwork of doubles and that has translated into my love of being on a team in a work environment.
Q: Why have you devoted your entire career to marketing to families/kids? What do you find most rewarding about that?
A: I believe that it is the transitions in life that shape who we are. Being an expectant parent and starting a family is one of the most magical moments in someone’s life. I feel honored to play even a small part in a person’s journey during this special time. This period resonates so strongly with me because it reminds me so much of what my life was like when I had young kids…. frantic, chaotic and filled with so much love and great memories…. clearly some of my favorite moments.
Q: What do you consider career highlights to date?
A: At the top of my list (so far) would be launching IKEA in Southern California. At the time of the launch, IKEA was in Canada and on the east coast, but had not yet opened a location in California. There was an entrenched competitor called STOR who had copied IKEA’s concept and had three locations. The marketing objective was to develop a strategy that would identify IKEA as the originator of the concept and put STOR out of business within one year. The theme of the advertising campaign became “Today the world. Tomorrow Burbank.” The idea being that IKEA was a 40 year-old company with stores in 26 countries and now we were coming to your backyard. We never had to mention the competitor and thanks to the multi-pronged approach marketing campaign, 150,000 people visited the Burbank location within the first six days of opening. We shut down the 5 freeway and STOR went out of business within a year. I am truly thrilled to be at CHOC and look forward to topping my IKEA experience with some new initiatives.
Q: Tell us about the power of storytelling and how our associates/physicians and others can contribute.
A: The human brain is drawn to clarity and away from confusion. If people are confused about what you offer, they’ll look past you for someone who can say it clearly. A real challenge in health care is describing conditions and treatments simply and making the parent or patient the hero. With all of the great stories within CHOC, the real goal is to be able to work with our associates, physicians, nurses and others to tell their stories in a clear and compelling way.
Q: In addition to playing tennis, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I love to cook and talk about food which is probably why I also love to travel. Thanks to IKEA and being a foreign exchange student when I was 15 years old, I speak Swedish and really love traveling in Scandinavia.