When you live in Southern California, you pay attention to earthquakes.
And you follow Dr. Lucy Jones if you want to know the straight skinny on anything earthquake-related.While there are plenty of earthquake experts at CalTech, she is THE public face of earthquake science and safety—a widely recognized authority here and across the globe.What makes her the go-to authority for regular folks and big media alike?She certainly has top credentials—degrees from Brown and M.I.T. plus her ongoing relationship with CalTech and many years serving the U.S. Geological Survey.But lots of experts have impressive credentials.She narrowed her focus to seismology early on, which meant she has researched deeply and published frequently.Focus, deep expertise in a niche and frequent publishing—all critical to building authority and yet arguably still not enough to be perceived as an authority outside of her academic niche. I believe there are two qualities she’s exhibited consistently that put her over the edge from expert to authority: her ability to make the complex simple and her calm, reassuring presence.
The authorities we want to follow (unless you’re deeply into the rabbit hole that is any technical niche) help us understand the complex. They break it down for us in ways we can absorb.They use metaphor and stories to teach us and debunk popular myths with wit and charm. How many times have I heard Lucy Jones mention that there is no pattern to earthquakes no matter how much our human minds keep searching for one?Calm may not always mean authority, but when you’re an expert in a science without pattern that has the potential to kill hundreds and thousands of people in a nanosecond, it is a prized virtue.Dr. Jones comes across as knowledgeable, patient and steady, but she also injects her personality into her interviews. She is a real person, not a remote expert.You can see that she’s deeply interested in not only the science, but in the application of her work. How to keep people safe—and how to impact the mindset and education of those living with the very real possibility of earthquakes.The bottom line is this: becoming an authority is more than credentials and strategically sharing your wisdom—it’s a singular mindset that directs all of your efforts to transforming your ideal audience.Related: When Authority Sneaks Up On You