When was the last time you got a letter that made your hands shake?

"When was the last time you got a letter that made your hands shake?"

This is what was written in big, bold, wobbly letters on an A4 envelope I received this week.  I confess to feeling slightly nervous about opening it. Had I won something? Was something incredible about to happen to me? Or - gulp - was it going to contain some sort of threat?

Upon opening, I saw the Parkinson's UK logo, and the reference to shaky hands quickly made sense.

The letter inside was to invite me to take part in a fundraising event, Bud's Run. I can't make the race personally, but the most important thing was that Parkinson's UK had grabbed my attention. You're emotionally engaged before you even open the letter.

A couple of other people in the building who'd seen it in my post tray even commented upon it later, saying they'd been curious to find out what I'd been sent. So the reach is even wider than just the person whose name is on the envelope.

Direct marketing can be an expensive business, where you're often competing against other charities to make the most impact on the person receiving the mail. To talk to the reader directly before they even open the letter - better still to stop it from being chucked in the bin, unopened - is a smart approach. And one which I hope will help a great cause raise even more funds.

Copywriter Johnny Cullen from Euston Do You Copy says they had the website and some social media activity, but he was keen to do something in print that would be hard to ignore. “I wanted to create a message on the envelope that would make it hard not to open, to make people think what’s inside it,” says Johnny. “I wanted people to think about daily life with Parkinson’s.”

Having always been interested in the techniques of old-school copywriters, he got to thinking how nowadays print is not used as effectively as before - particularly not when it came to envelopes. And he knew the ‘kidnap’ theme would be a powerful way of getting the readers’ attention. All it takes it a little imagination - and a black Sharpie…