Co-owner of Ogden’s Own Distillery, Steve Conlin, met PRSSA students on Tuesday, October 22 to talk about their product, Five Wives Vodka and the First Amendment conflict he had with this product.

When Conlin named his vodka Five Wives, he was aware that it might cause a stir in Utah. When it was accepted in the state of Utah he had no idea it would cause such a controversy elsewhere, until Idaho decided to ban the liquor from liquor stores, and bars. The Idaho State Liquor Division wrote in a letter to Collins distillery that “…the Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried.”  Collin was shocked when he received the letter and told “We aren’t even making fun (of Mormonism); we are making a nod to the historical past of the American West.”

For Collin this was more than a sales issue, this was a freedom of speech issue, so he decided to hire a PR agency and send out a press release to tell his story and get the news/media involved.  The press release went out and Collins found himself in a small media storm. His story hit the Associated Press, Huffington Post, ABC News, and most major media channels. Conlin quickly learned that good or bad, any publicity is good publicity, and he had a small army cheering him on.

Despite all the publicity, Idaho was still unwilling to sell Five Wives Vodka. Colin refusing to stop the fight hired a lawyer, and threatened to sue the state of Idaho. Not even 24 hours later Idaho accepted Five Wives Vodka and the battle was over.

When Colin was asked if he would do anything differently his response was no. But he did give our class some great advice.  At the end of any battle you have to mend fences. Don’t just gut them like a fish, and leave them for dead, always go back shake hands and try to work together in the future.

By: Sydnie Foust

1 Comment

  1. This was a great speaker and learned so much.  It is great to have speakers who can give such different views of crisi management an what a PR Professional does in different facets.

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