• Meet Jim Guttau, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

     
    FROM THE Fall 2018 ISSUE
     

    A PR professional shares intel he’s gained from launching a top-secret events series that applies to meetings, too.

After starting his career in elementary education, Jim Guttau has worked in marketing and PR roles for 17 years. Now director of public relations and communications for Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, he’s launched a popular secret event series, dubbed Allium Society (@alliumchicago on Instagram), that draws on his playful nature. “It’s funny, [my teaching experience] has given me the skills to deal with many ‘big kids,’ or adults,” says Guttau. Here’s what planners can learn from his success.

Why did you launch Allium Society? When I started this job [in May 2017] … I thought, how can we get young professionals here? My solution was to launch a secret society series, borrowing from the concept of Chicago speakeasies and other secret event series I’d seen around town. 

How do you market secret events? Social media is our main promotional tool for Allium Society events. For the first one, we posted cryptic messages each week leading up to the event, such as “Shhh. #AlliumSociety is hosting its super secret launch party next week.” Then, the following week, we would post, “Secret Soiree: Message us for more information on #AlliumSociety.” You couldn’t believe the number of people who shared this post and messaged us. 

What about the Four Seasons brand inspires your loyalty? Looking back on six years with the company and five properties (Vail, Denver, St. Louis, Sante Fe and Chicago), I feel extremely valued and respected for my ideas. I am passionate about implementing innovative offers, treatments, menu items, etc., and it’s exciting to share these.

What’s a “hidden gem” venue in Chicago? My favorite is Band of Bohemia, the first brewpub to be awarded a Michelin star. 

Any sure-fire party tricks to liven up an event? Two things I always invest in are lighting and a photo booth. Lighting can make all the difference and really sets the mood, such as at our second Allium Society event, which was lit in vivid purple. Photo booths keep advancing; we had a GIF photo booth at an event, which allows for instant sharing on Instagram with your branding. 

You may not have seen her name among Chicago’s James Beard award nominees or caught in the buzz of another trendy eatery opening, but the ripples of Rita Dever’s culinary creations have made an impact far and wide. After cooking around the world, the Pacific Northwest native put down roots as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) associate partner and corporate chef where she collaborates in the company’s test kitchen to innovate new dishes for all LEYE restaurants.

 

For Chicago-based event planner and stylist Rachel De Marte, her bright, dynamic personality isn’t just one of her many amiable characteristics. It’s her calling card.

“I’m a big personality and a maximalist through and through. There’s definitely an energy and excitement level I bring to each event that you’ll start to grasp as we sit down together to brainstorm,” says De Marte. “‘Where does she get all of this energy?’ and ‘force of nature’ are things I hear all the time,” she laughs.

 

Passionate entrepreneurs and ESP Presents co-founders Matt Woodburn and Sarah Neukom collaborate to craft experiential events. 

ILM+E: What are your backgrounds in the industry and how did you come to establish your production firm?