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.