What would you rather have – someone’s cell phone number, or their email address?

If you wanted to reach them immediately, of course you’d want their cell phone number. Why? You can send them a text. Even if people don’t have smartphones, they can receive text messages. My mom and dad are in their 80’s, and even they send and receive text messages from our family!

What does this mean for your school? If you have an “emergency notification” system set up for your school, the preferred method of contact should be text. I use quotation marks because if your school has one (and it should), that’s probably how it was sold to you. It should actually be used as an “urgent communication” tool, for 2 reasons. First, people pay more attention to texts than emails. The key safety phrase is “Don’t text and drive” today. Hardly anyone says “Don’t email and drive,” even though you can do that on your smartphone. Second, email from your school can land in a spam file, especially if you use a free service like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. It would be unfortunate if an urgent communication from your school landed in a parent’s spam folder. Why? Because once it lands there, chances are that anything you send your parents through email will land there too if parents never check their spam or junk folder.

And most people never check it.

But why should YOU consider changing your email address? Because it’s a security precaution.

The past 3 companies that I’ve worked for have given me the email address of “mziemski” followed by the company’s Web site URL. After all, there aren’t many Ziemski’s working for the company, and if there were, chances would be slim that there would be a Mike and a Mark. IT departments also have protocols to deal with more common surnames, like Smith or Jones.

At about the same time I started working for the first of the 3 companies mentioned above, we were also connected with email at our home. Since I had “mziemski” at work, I signed up for an “mziemski” personal email address with a provider known as PeoplePC. They’re still around as part of Earthlink, but I carried the “mziemski” through to Gmail when the current area of connectedness began.

The problem is that there are other “mziemski”s in the nation, and more and more people are connecting to the Internet every day. What does this mean for my personal email address? It means that other “mziemski”s who sign up for a new Redbox account, a Netflix account, or an online service can use my email address as their preferred method of contact. This way, they won’t receive newsletters, discount offers, payment reminders or surveys. Gmail’s solution is to “just delete the email,” but if they sign up for some type of unsavory service, then it looks like I’m the one who’s subscribing to it. While these companies are insistent that they are protecting their customers’ privacy by not contacting them to inform them of their incorrect profile information, the problem is that they may be sending personal identification information to unintended and unauthorized recipients.

Therefore, if your email is a simple “first initial first name/last name” email formula, and you have a “free” email service, consider using your middle initial, a dot or some other type of special character, or a number that you can remember.  Or, choose a non-standard email formula, such as the first two letters of your proper first name, the first two letters of your middle name, and first two letters of your last name as your personal email address.  Put a special character or number in there as well.  That would be an address difficult for someone else to “mistakenly” use.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2014-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20140728)