Weber Shandwick wins fuel cell technology brief

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association wants to make influencers in the Northeast U.S. aware of fuel cell technology, as more auto manufacturers introduce it to their vehicles.

WASHINGTON: Weber Shandwick is aiding the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) to educate and raise awareness of fuel cell vehicles.

The trade association brought on Weber last month following a formal, competitive RFP process that started earlier this year. The Interpublic agency will support FCHEA with its fuel cell vehicles or FCV awareness campaign on a one-year contract.

"We are constructing a campaign to raise awareness of the technology, since it is so new and there are few cars on the market [that have the tech yet]," said Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate, Weber’s public affairs division. "We are helping folks understand what it is and isn’t and how that relates to other innovative technologies."

FCVs run on hydrogen gas rather than gasoline, so they could significantly reduce dependence on foreign oil and lower harmful emissions that contribute to climate change, according to the government's official source of information

Weber will help FCHEA target consumers interested in automotive technology and sustainable transportation.

The agency will also educate influencers and policymakers in key Northeast states about the importance of strong infrastructure – such as fueling stations – to support the new tech. The value of having zero emission vehicles available will also be communicated, Jenkins added.

The campaign is in its planning stages and will kick off within three months "in a visible way," said Jenkins. It will involve a multi-channel effort encompassing media relations and social media.

Events such as automotive trade shows will be used to get word out. Partners will be sought to help pave the way for the introduction of FCVs and the campaign wants to give people the chance to see, feel, and interact with the new technology.

FCV and hydrogen infrastructure introduced in California lays the groundwork for expansion to new markets across the country.

"Very few people have seen or driven one of these cars, because they have mostly been introduced in California," said Jenkins. "The Northeast will be an important market in the not-too-distant future because there is an increased interest and focus on sustainable tech and this is the only zero-emission vehicle available."

FCVs are the only zero-emission vehicles available today that replicate the driving experience of traditional gasoline vehicles in terms of driving range and refueling.

Eric Hoffman, Powell Tate SVP and management supervisor, is leading the account team, supported by staffers across Weber’s Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Boston offices. Budget information was not disclosed.

There is no incumbent on the account. Jenkins said the FCHEA brought on a PR firm because "many different auto manufacturers are introducing vehicles in this category" – some as soon as later this year.

"We chose Weber Shandwick because we thought they had experience across a variety of the areas that this campaign will cover – automotive, energy, sustainability, public affairs, and digital/social strategy for example," said Morry Markowitz, president of FCHEA. "They also have offices in our key markets."

He added that the FCHEA believes that fuel cell vehicles can play an important role in improving vehicles’ environmental impact and can bring "innovation and ingenuity that could foster a new clean economy and economic growth – particularly in early adopter communities."

The FCHEA is dedicated to the commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen energy technologies. It represents fuel cell manufacturers, automobile companies, hydrogen and fuel distributors, components and systems manufacturers, government laboratories, and trade associations.

This article was updated on July 15, 2016 with additional comment from Markowitz.

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