My time as an agency copywriter was many years ago. It was not a particularly long or prestigious career but it was v. good fun and I won an award, which made me proud.

Last week LinkedIn suggested I connect with an old colleague, which reminded me of the appeal that won the award, and made sense of a lot of ideas that keep cropping up in conversation over the last few weeks.

Nick Couldry – the other half of the creative team – and I went on a site visit to RSPB reserve at Sutton Fen, Norfolk, on a warm and sunny early summer day, in preparation for making a direct fundraising mail pack. I remember treading ankle deep through marshland, sandals submerged. I remember sharp reeds cutting my legs, and wishing I’d worn jeans. I remember all the incredible greens of the Fen and the still, blue sky.

I remember, at the station for the train home, Nick wondering, “Do you think we could do it so the appeal comes from the Fen itself? Written by the land?”

I was tired, bitten, muddy, probably sunburned. I rolled my eyes.

But the next day he brought a book (Nick, do you remember the title? Short pieces each written as if by a planet?) to the office. I only read the first couple of pages, enough to get the bee in my bonnet and start writing.

Long story, the RSPB took the risk and went with it. We raised over £500k with an ROI of 5 and it earned an IOF award. “A Message From the Fen” was the first time RSPB had tried this kind of messaging and I’m told it was a catalyst for future approaches.

Which is my way of illustrating the point that keeps coming up: new thinking changes everything. RSPB could easily have gone for another, safer, approach. It’s a story told by a marsh, for goodness sake! It’s weird, frankly.

But it’s also (if I may be so bold) lyrical and evocative. It uses mystery, beauty and open questions rather than facts. We were confident in it because we knew: facts don’t sell, feelings do.

There was always a risk our appeal would bomb in financial terms (although it would have still given valuable learnings about what their supporters would tolerate). But if what you want from your creative teams is ‘beyond reproach’, what you’ll probably get is ‘a bit bland’.