what exactly is a crisis?

Very simply, a crisis is anything that has the potential to negatively affect the reputation or credibility of an organization. "Every organization will face a crisis at some point, and to ignore that fact, or to be unprepared for it is akin to being a bull rider: It's not 'if' you're going to be hurt, it's 'when' and 'how bad'."

The key to successfully handling a crisis is thorough, detailed planning in advance of the event and timely, accurate and honest public communications throughout the course of the crisis. Most public relations practitioners don't deal with crises on a daily basis, but each of them must be prepared to handle a crisis when it arises. A practitioner's role during a crisis is not an easy job - one must retain public confidence in the organization and protect the welfare of employees and their families, as well as provide timely, accurate and truthful information to the public.