Wednesday, Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET



Social media has become a lifeline for businesses and organizations during the pandemic, enabling contact in a contact-less world. While social media allows companies to share timely information, offer support and build trust, some business owners even attribute their success to platforms like Facebook and Instagram—which is the case for UT Knoxville alumnae Colleen Martin and Ashley Reed.

When these two neighbors launched The Balloon Garden in May 2020 amid the pandemic, they had no way of knowing if it would take off. But take off it has! In this session, you’ll learn how these small-business owners are using social media to establish their audience, drive sales and create long-term customer relationships.

You also will learn from professional communicators how to maximize audience engagement through storytelling strategies and to monitor and measure effectiveness.



What You’ll Learn

  • Opportunities and challenges presented by the pandemic
  • How to strengthen your brand’s storytelling on social media
  • How to craft unique content that’s valuable to your audience
  • How to measure the impact of your social media on your audience



Colleen Martin

Colleen Martin
Owner, Little Hoot Designs, Co-Founder, The Balloon Garden

Colleen Martin is the co-founder of The Balloon Garden, a Knoxville-based boutique balloon company opened in May 2020 and offering unique customization and balloon design services. Within the first two months of business, Martin and her balloon partner, Ashley Reed, had blown up more than 5,000 balloons, congratulated seven brides, welcomed six new babies, rooted “No Mo Chemo” for two strong women and even got to be part of an adoption day. While running The Balloon Garden is a full-time job for Martin, it’s not her only job. This busy mom of three is also the owner and operator of Little Hoot Designs, a hand-designed online children’s clothing boutique for girls and boys of all ages. Martin started Little Hoot Designs in 2011 when she decided to take an early “retirement” from her first-grade teaching position after the birth of her second child. A native of Germantown, Tennessee, Martin earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UT Knoxville in 2003.

Ashey Reed

Ashley Reed
Co-Founder, The Balloon Garden

In May 2020, Ashley Reed and Colleen Martin co-founded The Balloon Garden, a boutique balloon company offering unique customization and balloon design services for customers in the Knoxville area. While her future is in business ownership, Reed’s background is in sales. She was working full time for a medical sales company while starting The Balloon Garden during the pandemic. She decided to leave her sales career behind after the initial positive response to the business and hasn’t looked back. In addition to running The Balloon Garden, she is raising her two boys, Henry and John, with her husband, Matthew. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from UT Knoxville.

Courtney Childers
Courtney Carpenter Childers
Associate Professor and Executive Director, Adam Brown Social Media Command Center, College of Communication and Information, UT Knoxville

Courtney Carpenter Childers joined the College of Communication and Information at UT Knoxville as an associate professor in the School of Advertising and Public Relations in 2006. In addition to her faculty role, she serves as the executive director of the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center. The center provides faculty, staff and students access to the same leading technology that Fortune 100 companies worldwide use to publish, engage and analyze their social media marketing activities. It is one of the only university facilities in the world powered by Salesforce Marketing Cloud Social Studio technology. Childers’ research interests deal with societal issues in advertising and public relations, and her recent research projects and publications focus on how emerging media are impacting the advertising and public relations fields, specifically with influencer marketing efforts. She earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University. She also earned a master’s degree in advertising and public relations and a doctoral degree in communication and information sciences from the University of Alabama.

Brian Canever
Brian Canever
Public Relations Specialist, UT Knoxville

In his current role as public relations specialist for the UT Knoxville Office of Communications and Marketing, Brian Canever is responsible for doing what he does best—telling the University’s story to audiences throughout Tennessee and around the world. Previously, he was the digital content manager for the Center for Sport, Peace and Society, where he also served as communications lead for the award-winning U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program, which the center implements. Prior to joining UT in 2017, Canever spent seven years as a freelance writer and consultant, contributing to media outlets ranging from the Knoxville News Sentinel to ESPN. His writing has won awards from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists and Tennessee College Public Relations Association. Canever earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American and Latino studies from William Paterson University in New Jersey and a master’s degree in journalism and electronic media from UT Knoxville, where he teaches a 300-level journalism course on sports reporting. He serves on the board of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee.