This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.

We need to be careful about what we post on Twitter, that has been one thing that I have come to preach to people. Think before you tweet…so what happens if a journalist accidentally kills off the queen? The BBC runs regular rehearsals for royal deaths and one reporter mistakenly thought it was the real deal.

Ahmen Khawaja was not involved in the exercise however she overheard the rehearsal and tweeted what she assumed to be breaking news.

As it turns out, the Queen was in fact at the hospital…for a routine check up. She quickly deleted the tweet but as we all know once something goes online it can be too late to take it back, even if you delete it. The news spread so fast on Twitter that Buckingham Palace had to break their own protocols of refusing to comment on speculation about the health of the Royal family and issued a statement denying the Queen was ill.

The BBC confirmed they were running a rehearsal and staff were told to keep it off social media. They were later forced to apologise for the mishap.

“During a technical rehearsal for an obituary, tweets were mistakenly sent from the account of a BBC journalist saying that a member of the Royal Family had been taken ill. The tweets were swiftly deleted and we apologise for any offence.”

The episode as it played out on social media will no doubt irritate relations between Buckingham Palace and the BBC. The BBC say that they did circulate an email explaining that a rehearsal was in place on the morning although the email of course does not mention details. It read as follows:

“This morning we are carrying out a low key rehearsal for the way in which television might cover a Category One obituary. It’s mainly a technical procedure looking at the use of the studio.

“It does not involve any sites outside NBH [New Broadcasting House], and it will not include radio or online. This has been in the diary for some time – there is NO editorial reason why this is happening now.

“Procedures have been put in place to isolate the rehearsal from any output. It will take place in Studio E whilst the Victoria Derbyshire show is on air from Studio B. We will be using internal camera positions on the mezzanine, and in the Business unit. The exercise should be completed before 1030, and the News Channel will return to E as scheduled at 1100.

“It’s essential that we can rehearse these sensitive scenarios privately. BBC Tours have been suspended, and the blinds from public areas including reception and the media café will remain dropped.

“I’d also ask for your help in refraining from any external conversations and all social media activity about this exercise. Your continued discretion will be greatly appreciated.”

This whole story circulates back to something we have discussed multiple times before regarding social media. Always think before you tweet and especially from the standpoint of journalism, try to verify your sources before posting to your followers.

Once something goes up it can be hard to take it back, especially news like this which will spread like wildfire. Confirm, verify, check what you can and if it all checks outs then post your tweet. Failing to do this and it could come back to haunt you in more ways than you bargained for.

Especially from the standpoint of a business or SME’s, remember that when you tweet from that account you are representing your brand, a brand you are trying to build and expand upon. Think about how you want people to remember your brand or business, do you really want them to associate you with mistakes on social media that make people cringe?


About The Author

Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis. He has an Advanced Diploma in Psychology and a Diploma in Digital Marketing And Social Media. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here. Or you can drop Mark an email at, [email protected]

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