How reputation works on the Ukrainian book market? Research

The Ukrainian book market is not really a typical business. Sometimes it is rather a creative community, with lots of scandals that spoil the reputation of its participants.To what extent do these scandals spoil the reputation? How to counteract them better? How does it influence the overall reputation of Ukrainian books? And finally, are there any chances that full-fledged reputation management will appear on the market? Supported by Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.

Since 2014, there has been a wave of public attention to Ukrainian book publishing, fueled by growing patriotic sentiment and restrictions on Russian exports. Publishers have strengthened their market position through more active and professional promotion of both book reading and their own production.

At the same time, such growth of potential audience has increased the importance of public reputation for a wide range of market participants. In particular, the impact of information crises has become more sensitive. Increasingly, they reach not only a narrow audience, but also a wider range of readers. Consequently, countering information crises can no longer be reduced to reaching an understanding within a narrow circle of friends and colleagues, but require knowledge of the reputation mamagement rules that exist in many consumer markets.

However, such versatility should still be based on the specifics of a particular market. Yes, it is important that the author's or publisher's brand is linked to values, in particular, some bookstores are positioned as "the center of the value system".

We decided to find out how reputational crises affect the brand of a publisher, bookstore, author, book or event. Can the business owner always act as a brand voice? How should publishers build their communication policy, taking into account the reputation factor? What reputational factors are most sensitive for Ukrainian book publishing?

Our study consists of two parts: the first - content analysis, examines the patterns of information crises in the Ukrainian book market, it is based on posts from social media users and uses the methods of content analysis, discourse analysis and factor analysis.

The second part took into account the finding of the first part, and consisted of studying the patterns of reputation formation in the book environment, as well as the impact of information crises on the reputation. At this stage, focus groups were used to study the impact on the readers, and in-depth interviews were used to determine the impact on market participants.

PART 1: CONTENT-ANALYSIS

For the study, we selected six information crises, as diverse as possible: the subject of the crisis (publisher, bookstore, author, book event) crisis theme (product quality, ethics of relations or values, among which are patriotic/pro-Russian, or traditional/modern), the duration of the crisis, the identity of the critics (as in the first of these cases, the Yakaboo crisis, when one of the accusers, Bookstore E, suffered from the crisis not less than its target).

For each of the cases, the sample is formed from posts, reposts and comments on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, written in Ukrainian or Russian, which mention the person involved in the crisis, the accuser or the book publishing house brand. The chronological boundaries covered the most active periods of discussion of each case:

- The conflict between Bookstore "Ye" and Yakaboo over Russian books (first round - December 20, 2019, second round - September 14, 2020) - 7,104 units of content, from which a thousand messages were randomly selected, of which 932 were relevant.

- Accusation of Folio publishing house in low-quality translations (data taken from March 1, 2017 to June 2, 2021) - 264 relevant units of content. In the second part, we replaced the case with translations of "Folio" with a similar, but correctly resolved, case of KSD, because according to the method we  needed a successful reputation;

- Scandal with the Book Arsenal Festival and veteran writers (February 22, 2019 - March 17, 2021) - 3205 units of content, from which a thousand messages were randomly selected, of which 937 were relevant;

- Scandal with the dismissal of the management of the publishing house "Nash Format" (15.05.2020 - 9.06.2020) - 477 relevant units of content.

- Dispute over Haska Shiyan's book "Behind the Back" (August 31, 2019 - January 28, 2021) - 260 relevant units of content;

- Scandal around the book of the publishing house "Knyholav" about sexuality for children (18.06 - 23.06.2021) - 636 relevant units of content.

Then we encoded all the messages, determining:

- tone in relation to the person involved in the case;

- tone to the brand;

- tone to the accuser;

- arguments of opponents of the defendant;

- arguments of supporters of the defendant;

- RepTrack reputation factors:

o Products (books, etc.);

o Responsibility (the education of a tolerant society etc.);

o Performance (number of published books, sales);

o Governance (management competencies, etc.)

o Leadership (market, industry)

o Workplace (corporate culture, working conditions, salary);

o Innovation

In addition, we studied the information in the accounts of the authors of the selected posts, in particular, public information in the profile, as well as the content of their last 30 public posts, and analyzed the inclusion in the context of book publishing.

The role of the user in the book market was also determined:

1) Reader;

2) Book blogger, journalist;

3) Author;

4) Publisher, editor;

In addition, the data collection system automatically indicated, where available, the user's gender, region of residence, as well as the social network in which the post was made.

PART 2: SOCIOLOGY

RQ1. How the assessment of various reputational factors influences the decision to buy a book: a certain author, publisher, in a certain bookstore.

H1: The identity of the owner strongly influences the brand.

H2: Women react more emotionally to reputational crises, and a book is an emotional purchase.

RQ1A. What is more important: the values or quality of the product? Does talking about product quality affect loyalty to the publisher?

RQ2. Who are the opinion leaders influencing the choice of a book?

RQ3. Do readers have an idea of ​​the reputation of authors, publishers, distributors?

RQ4. Is there a limitation period? How long does the impact of reputational crises last?

RQ5. Is the attitude affected by the resolution of the problem and the resolution of the conflict?

KEY FINDINGS

RQ1. Readers mostly don't think about publishers' reputations because they don't pay much attention to the publisher's name and are almost unaware of any reputational conflicts with publishers - except for a certain proportion of "active readers" who are more knowledgeable than others.

They also do not think about the reputation of bookstores, because there are few of them on the market, and you do not have to choose where to buy a book. In addition, the cost of books, promotions and the atmosphere in the bookstore are more important to readers than its reputation.

As for the authors, the identity of the author and his reputation for readers matter:

On the one hand, readers prefer authors with a close civic position and a positive personal image.

On the other hand, authors with a scandalous reputation arouse interest in the person and his/her works. However, a reputation built on the denial of national or moral values ​​(for example, O. Buzyna) causes rejection of the mass reader.

Commitment to national and moral (mostly traditional) values ​​is an important criterion of high reputation for market participants, which is most evident in the civic position on the current war with Russia and cooperation with Russian publishers/authors and so on.

H1: The identity of the owner/director greatly influences the brand. A public leader with a high reputation contributes to building the reputation of a market participant, and vice versa.

H2: The book is indeed a predominantly emotional purchase, and content analysis shows that women are more responsive to reputational crises. However, focus groups did not show greater awareness of reputational cases among women, and no differences in the response to cases from women and men during FGD were observed.

RQ1A. The quality of the product clearly affects the loyalty to the publisher: the publisher's brand is most often paid attention to either in the case of high quality book (text/translation, paper, cover, illustrations, etc.) (illustrative example - Ababagalamaga), or in case of poor book quality (problems with translation, bad cover (the book falls apart in the hands), etc.) (sometimes referred to Folio example).

Declaratively, both readers and experts state that values ​​are more important than product quality ("content is more important than form"). But quality is both a primary factor in interest in the book and a more important factor in its purchase. In addition, values ​​are too subjective. Therefore, we can assume that product quality is an incentive, and values ​​- a motive to buy and read a book.

RQ2. Readers mostly focus on the opinion of their authoritative friends or celebrities (artists/politicians, etc.). Children become an important motivator of reading. But the media (headings, ratings, reviews) are becoming more and more influential.

RQ3. Readers know almost nothing about the reputation of market players, information about reputational conflicts mostly remains within the professional community and a small circle of very active readers. Perhaps this is why reputational scandals do not have much effect on the overall profitability of a market participant (example - Folio). But the financial indicators are deteriorating somewhat (according to the representatives of KSD and Nash Format).

RQ4. Reputation building is a long history of brand development. Under certain conditions, it can be destroyed by one unsuccessful act/statement. The good news is that one-time reputational scandals involving insignificant things are not reflected in reputation.

Both readers and experts mostly state that the impact of reputational crises is short-lived, up to a month. The information field is now saturated with all sorts of conflicts, sensations, etc., so such conflicts are not remembered for very long. Exceptions are situations that violate the above-mentioned values/patriotic civic position, and/or greatly affect people's emotions. In this case, the reputational conflict becomes one of the negative identifiers of the brand and stays for a long time.

In addition, forgotten conflicts can be removed from the closet at any time by competitors or other enemies.

RQ5. Conflicts that have been adequately resolved have had a minimal impact on, or even enhanced, reputation (KSD). And those that have not been resolved have a long-term impact on reputation.

COMMUNICATION AND REPUTATION IN THE MARKET: OVERVIEW

1. The growth of the book market occurred on the background of a nationwide rise due to the Revolution of Dignity and the aggression of the Russian Federation. A new audience, for which this is one of the manifestations of national consciousness, has partially joined the reading of books by Ukrainian publishing houses, so the market is now extremely sensitive to patriotic challenges.

2. In Ukrainian literature, it is still possible to cause a scandal by violating the canons of female, male and patriotic images, as well as focusing on physiology, although it would seem that this potential was exhausted in the 90's. But even now attempts to develop, modernize, reveal the other side are often outrageous. However, in doing so, it is very easy to cross the border and be used by Russian propaganda. In addition, "scandal-making" requires a certain provocative behavior, which, say, was not in the case of H. Shiyan, which, in the end, could not form a bright image in this scandal.

3. Instagram, YouTube and Telegram, although powerful tools for promoting books, can not completely replace communication on Facebook, as reputational crises develop primarily in this social network, even if they begin in others. Therefore, every market participant needs to be able to communicate in this environment, especially when they works with patriotic topics.

4. Reputational crises almost exclusively affected correspondents from Kyiv and Lviv, and in the case of Kharkiv publishers, Kharkiv as well. This is where the core of the professional audience is concentrated.

5. Those market participants who declare themselves most loudly, form the reputation of the whole market. As a rule, they have the strongest reputation, but, on the other hand, their reputational problems are the most noticeable.

6. Guild solidarity still manifests itself in the studied cases: repeatedly some market participants stood up for others. However, this effect is relatively weak, given the "incredible number of reputational scandals" mentioned by respondents. The number of scandals, as well as the guild solidarity, is inherent in many creative environments, and once again shows that market participants still do not live by the rational laws of business.

7. PR practitioners in the market often perform the functions of marketers, who only help to promote books, say, handing them out to bloggers, but do not work purposefully to promote reputation, do not respond professionally to reputation crises, do not organize events to promote the publisher's brand as a whole, do not form a cohort readers who are actively involved in his affairs.

8. A large part of the audience is the so-called creative class, which, like the participants in the book market, works in industries for which human capital is important. The result is solidarity with publishers. Therefore, conflicts related to the reputation factor "Workplace" affect not only potential employees, but also "active readers".

9. There are no "arbitrators" on the market, whose role could be claimed by literary critics. But because there is a problem with literary critics in Ukraine, random people become situational authorities. Although it is the critics who could act as arbiters in at least two cases (Knyholav and Shiyan).

10. According to the study participants, the role of reputational conflicts in the literary market is twofold. On the one hand, they negatively affect the market in general, and the reputation of the parties to the conflict in particular. Therefore, it is better to avoid them, because it is quite difficult to get out of the conflict without reputational losses. On the other hand, sometimes the appearance of something new (trend, style, etc.) in the literature is perceived as a certain reputation challenge, but is a stimulus to market development, contributes to the change of conservative paradigms, is a progressive step forward.

11. Research participants believe that the most harmful for reputation are:

- Anti-Ukrainian statements or actions that threaten the security of the country

- Publication of books on sensitive topics for society or work with authors with a controversial ideological/moral position

- Devaluation/hatred/insult of readers/competitors/subordinates, etc.

- Publication of low-quality products

- Facts of financial dishonesty or copyright infringement, censorship

- Violation of ethics of business communication, non-compliance with partnership obligations

- Dumping of book products, which devalues ​​the book and becomes a barrier to the development of the book business

12. The peculiarity of the situation in Ukraine is the fact that the most dangerous factor for the reputation of book market players is cooperation with Russian authors/publishers, violation of the law on language, etc., ie actions related to the war with Russia and/or national identity. In particular, it often becomes the subject of manipulation and a way to destroy the reputation of a competitor.

FEATURES OF REPUTATION CRISES IN THE MARKET

1. Reputation in the market still exists, despite the fact that its influence is not always manifested. It is formed primarily by long-term work, the formation of stable associations with the brand. And the already formed reputation maintains trust in the brand in case of situational errors or information attacks on it. But systematic violations in a certain area almost certainly destroy the reputation, whether it is about the quality of books, as in Folio case, or the attitude to the team, as in "Nash format". And even if the scandal concerns another reputational factor, the business will certainly remember other problem areas that were previously known, but were silent before the crisis.

2. At present, it is no longer possible to hope that the information crisis that has happened to you will remain in the realm of a close groups and will not affect the sale of books. In each focus group we conducted, there were 1-2 people, whom we classified as "active readers": they heard about some of the scandals, especially those that were spread through the media. According to content research, they react to the scandal in much the same way as market participants, and they are the majority in all discussions. 

3. The impact of reputational crises on corporate interactions is extremely weak. Almost none of the surveyed market participants declared that they would not work with a market participant who had lost its reputation under any circumstances. The most common explanation is that there are too few market participants and their circle is too small to refuse someone. Here, the results of the interviewed top personalities differ from the statements on social networks, where designers and translators stated their refusal to cooperate with scandalous customers.

4. Book scandals are becoming interesting material not only for intra-industry media or bloggers, but also for media outlets that work for a politically engaged audience. Including those working for Russian propaganda, as we saw in the cases of "Knyholav", "Folio" and "Nash format". Such cases are becoming most visible to a wide audience. The book industry is increasingly becoming a political factor.

5. Charismatic owners or directors often act as brand voice publishers and other book market participants, and they often lack a communication policy and communication managers who are able to implement an anti-crisis communication strategy. It is worth mentioning the rule for a PR-practitioner during a crisis: "Take the phone from the boss, cut off his access to social networks."

6. The most common mistake is to expect that reputational actions and decisions will go unnoticed and that the reputational crisis will go away on its own. Timely intervention of the publishing house in the crisis, clarification of its position, readiness to hear the reaction of the audience work on the brand of the market participant. This will not completely extinguish the crisis on social networks, but if it reaches the level of the media, they will certainly quote the opinion of your party. In the case of "Kniholav" it significantly slowed down the negative vices, and the situation was not as polar as in the case of "Nash format".

7. Extremely high role is played by early training of brand defenders - people who will be ready to communicate theses to protect its victim. The case of Yakaboo showed that the use of such loyal influential people significantly extinguishes the crisis and shifts the conversation to other topics. Given the sacredness of the authors, they should be the first to act as such defenders. In addition, one can often find such opinion leaders who would benefit from defending the attacker.

8. Although information crises do not last long, and in the current information space they are quickly replaced by other topics, they are easily restored if necessary. We see from the example of the Book Arsenal that they are a convenient target for criticism every year, because for the first time they responded poorly.

9. Involving reputational scandals as a prosecutor is generally a thankless task, and in the book market it poses additional reputational threats due to excessive negativity towards everyone. At the same time, we have formed a group of "professional scandal-mongers", without whom almost none of the investigated scandals passed. Among them is Ostap Ukrainets.

10. Insolence or arrogance in responding to the crisis is not perceived good in the book market, and can either be ignored, as O. Krasovytsky's post about Lovecraft's translations, or increase the negative reaction, as V. Kyrychenko's post. Demonstrating confidence is important, but not superficialy.

11. A feature of reputational conflicts in the book market (as in other creative areas) is a special impact on personalities: the personality of the author or publisher, too sensitive to public reaction. That is why sometimes such conflicts lead to tragic consequences for writers and artists.

12. Most of the participants in the study believe that the most vulnerable in terms of reputation are 2 cases:

- Conflict between the founder of the publishing house "Nash Format" and the team. The main reason: incorrect behavior towards subordinates causes condemnation, has a great emotional response in people.

- The conflict between Yakaboo and Bookstore Ye. The main reason: conflicts between market leaders will always have a public resonance, in addition, this conflict concerned a sensitive issue - cooperation with the Russian publishing house.

13. According to the respondents, the case with Haska Shiyan's book "Behind the Back" and the case with the publishing house "Knyholav" about the book by Inti Chavez Perez had the least impact on the reputation. Most of the respondents consider these cases to be too ambiguous and somewhat contrived, artificially created.

14. According to the respondents, an example of a successful resolution of a reputational conflict is a case with the Book Arsenal and veteran publishing houses and a case with poor-quality translation in KSD. In the first case, a compromise solution was found that was beneficial to both sides of the conflict. In the second case, the KSD publishing house apologized (which is rare in Ukrainian realities) and corrected its own mistake, even with financial losses. As a result, those involved in the conflict quickly regained the trust of readers.

15. According to the participants of such cases, reputational conflicts negatively affect the financial performance of the company and the moral and psychological condition of the company. But, at the same time, they lead to important strategic decisions, which further become a trigger for the company's development.

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