Samson Samasoni, communications manager at ICNZ, talks about running a B&B with no guests, being humbled by his teenage son, and why his job is the third toughest comms gig in NZ.
Why did you get into insurance?
Like most people it was a deliberate accident, I was looking to return to New Zealand after 14 years overseas, wanted something that would be a serious communications challenge and spotted the role at the Insurance Council. Supporting the insurance industry with its reputational issues post-Canterbury earthquakes seemed like the third toughest communications gig in the country – the biggest was trying to sell Kim Dotcom to a cynical public and the second is being Jason Ede.
How have your perceptions of the industry changed now that you’re in it?
Indelibly. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the unfaltering focus on the customer and how the insurance industry protects New Zealand and safeguards those things that are important to us. Yes, it sounds like a PR sound bite but I experience it daily in my work.
How would you change the industry?
Not so much about changing the industry but about changing the perception of the industry as promoted through some media outlets, where fact, context, perspective and balance is forsaken in favour of misconception, hype and emotive anecdotes.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve had lots of great advice from fantastic people over the years, but recently after winning a series of QuizzUp challenges against my 13-year-old son, I jokingly asked him whether he was sick of me winning. He reminded me of the adage that it wasn’t always about winning, it was about wanting to win. Gulp. He taught me about humility and his character in one cutting remark.
If you were Prime Minister for one day, what would you do?
I would start by making Maori language compulsory in all primary schools, lower corporate and personal tax, adopt the voucher system for all social services, establish as many charter schools as I can get away with, followed by lunch at my local, the Spruce Goose café in Lyall Bay, then take the rest of the day off.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Because of the enduring memories, it was working for a GEF-UNDP environment programme that required me to advise 13 Pacific countries on how to run community-based sustainability communication campaigns. An amazing experience working with communities and officials from Palau in the West to Tonga in the east, and 11 other countries in between.
What’s your favoured style of coffee?
Flat white and if I’m feeling really daring, a splash of vanilla syrup.
Union, league, soccer or other?
Union. Every person has a clear role and focus. And while every now and then there will be a star, you can only win consistently through teamwork and everyone playing to their optimum.
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinancing. Jesus Christ because I desperately want to know what he really intended. Dorothy Parker because every dinner party needs someone with biting wit and a troubled childhood.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in insurance, I would be…
Running a luxury bed and breakfast in Rarotonga and hoping no guests turn up.